One of several concerns around the country surrounds the quantity of testing kits available in Belize. Earlier today the Belize’s Ministry of Health received a donation of personal protective equipment from the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO. The donation comes as part of the support being given to Belize as part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The donated Personal Protective Equipment included four COVID-19 test kits, respirators, surgical masks, gowns, gloves, banners and stands. Along with the donation of PPEs, PAHO/WHO Belize continues to support the Ministry of Health through providing technical guidance and advice, participating in surveillance meetings, purchasing of additional PPEs, training and guidance for healthcare personnel and the public and assisting in enhancing risk communication and community strategies as part of COVID-19 preparedness and prevention efforts. The handing over took place yesterday complemented with a meeting between the PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr Noreen Jack, Belize’s Health Minister and the Director of Health Services, Dr Marvin Manzanero. According to Prime Minister Dean Barrow they are sourcing additional kits and gear.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “We have already ordered extra testing kits from a company called Roche* is that the way you pronounce it? A German company not necessarily operating in Germany. We’re getting additional kits from PAHO, we’re getting kits from several sources. We have put in a request to the Cubans I saw where they sent a number of personnel to Jamaica to assist Jamaica, we’ve already put in a long list. You know my friend — well I wonder if I can call him friend I hope he won’t think I’m taking liberties, certainly my comrade Assad Shoman was pressing me ‘When will you ask for ..-‘ you know Cuba is his second home and Cuban is perhaps his second nationality, “When will you press for Cuba to send people and to give stuff.” When I sent him the list I didn’t hear back from him I think he was shocked by the size of the ask but I say this only to make the point that apart from what we are prepared to pay for out of our resources and remember Mrs.Grant can make this $20 million dollars available early o’clock as soon as we can pass the additional allocation to the budget and the million US from CABEI will be in our coffers by Friday so the immediate needs in terms of scaling up with respect to equipment and protective gear and that sort of thing we are able to take care of.”
Another concern has to do with the situation at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where the workers were threatening to demonstrate. It turns out, however, that the demonstration has been put on hold due to the limit placed on social gatherings. The union was unable to get a permit. Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister spoke on this situation yesterday and it went in favor of the workers at the KHMH.
Hon. John Briceno, Opposition Leader, People’s United Party: “Well one of the things that the Prime Minister and I discussed briefly, and we haven’t gone through much details, that we do recognize the concerns from the employees at Karl Heusner and that I think it’s important for us to give them the assurances that they are going to be looked after. If they are going to be in the front line of this crisis that is looming ahead of us that they need to be reassured that should something happen to them that they get sick that we’re going to look after them and we’re going to help to look after their families. Now that message has not been conveyed to them as yet but we take the opportunity to mention it but we should take the opportunity and if necessary both the Prime Minister and I are prepared to meet with them but we need to try to discourage as much as we can at a time of crisis especially with the hospital Karl Heusner being the premier hospital institution in the country.”
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “I mean I don’t think even Plus TV would accuse me of being so cynical as to have somehow persuaded the Leader of the Opposition and all the professionals that make up the National Oversight Committee to agree on the ban of gatherings over a hundred persons simply to frustrate the teachers and the KHMH, my goodness man not even I believe in the estimation of Plus TV would be such a machiavellian. The fact is that as part of the raft of measures to try to make our country safer this was agreed. I support the Leader of the Opposition one hundred percent. Nobody is trying to throw shade on the people at the KHMH they have legitimate concerns but my goodness this to my mind is not the time for demonstrations, its a time for us to sit together and work things out. I will tell you that while one of the issues as I understand it has to do with the isolation unit at the KHMH, the National Task Force will look at that but already the health ministry was prepared to take the media on a tour of the KHMH to show why it is that even an objective organization such as PAHO has said that putting that unit there will not in fact interfere with the care and treatment of elderly and immunocompromised patients but ultimately if after every effort has been made to persuade the personnel there and to persuade the public that it is perfectly safe to have the unit there, if those efforts fail then we’ll put the unit somewhere else.”
The Western Regional Hospital has announced several precautionary measures being taken as well as the suspension of some services. We join Cayo Correspondent, Fem Cruz for the details.
Fem Cruz, Cayo Correspondent: As the country of Belize continues to prepare for the worst but at the same time hoping for the better the Western Regional Hospital here in Belmopan continues to find ways to keep it’s people safe from the coronavirus. Dr.Javier Zuniga, the Western Region Manager spoke to Love News about those measures put in place to make it happen.
Dr.Javier Zuniga, Western Region Manager, Western Regional Hospital: “Presently at Western Regional Hospital the management team has decided to implement four changes in relation to COVID-19 preparedness and prevention and I will go through some of these because it’s important for the public to know what we’re doing. So from now on the pharmacy will be providing a two month supply of medication for chronic patients and the elderly who have chronic conditions, this is to limit the movement of these two high risk groups to the hospitals. Secondly at Western Regional Hospital we have now set up a flu clinic outside the hospital behind the BFLA building which will now be open 24/7 and this is primarily to assess all patients who appear at the hospital with flu symptoms. So if we have people coming here please do not go into the hospital go to the flu clinic which is beside the BFLA building. If someone is highly suspected of having COVID-19 that individual will immediately be isolated. Thirdly the management is asking the public to limit the amount of visitors coming to the hospital during normal visiting hours. We’re asking for no children under the age of 16 years to be brought during visiting hours unless it is for a medical condition and we also ask that no elderly patient also do visits at the hospital. Fourthly, beginning next week the hospital will be suspending some elective surgeries and some maternal and child health services in order to limit the amount of people visiting the hospital. Emergency services and deliveries of course will continue. These changes will also be implemented at the San Ignacio Community hospital beginning next week. We would like to ask the public to please cooperate with us in order to decrease the chances of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Cayo district. Please continue to practice good hygiene measures, hand washing, the covering of cough, practice social distancing, avoid crowded areas, avoid shaking of hands and touching of face.”