General — 25 October 2017 — by Adele Ramos
KHMH suspends elective surgeries

Belize has been sending blood to Mexico and Guatemala for screening

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Oct. 23, 2017–Director of Health Services (DHS), Dr. Marvin Manzanero, confirmed to Amandala this morning that a problem with the supply of screened blood has been persisting in recent weeks, but he told us that the situation should be normalized by the end of the month.

The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) Authority has issued an advisory to the public that the nation’s primary referral hospital has suspended elective surgeries until further notice due to problems with blood supply.

“For the past two and a half weeks, there has been a shortage of available blood due to a limited blood supply and restrictions imposed by the Blood Bank of the Ministry of Health,” the advisory said.

“We have been able to continue life-saving surgeries up to this point, but unfortunately electives have been suspended,” it added.

According to the KHMH, “As soon as the Blood Bank services return to normal functioning, so will our full spate of surgical services.”

Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, Dr. Adrian Coye, told Amandala last Thursday that the hospital would normally do 300 elective surgeries a month, but since the end of September, it has had to put surgeries on hold because of limited supply of properly screened blood.

According to the DHS, the supply of Bio-Rad reagents used to screen the blood for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has gotten scarce in Central America, and in the interim, the Central Medical Laboratory in Belize City, which also supplies blood to patients in the private sector, such as the private hospitals, has had to send samples to Chetumal, Mexico, and Guatemala for testing.

For the KHMH, the delay in surgeries has been causing disquiet among patients, as well as staff, who have been grappling with the issues for the past few weeks. Coye told us that it has caused him to lose sleep, because it is people’s lives that are being affected.

In speaking with Amandala today, Dr. Manzanero said that Belize has not had a case of HIV transmission due to tainted blood in about 22 years, and health authorities want to ensure that no new cases arise as a consequence of testing issues.

Manzanero also told us that the Government is in the process of receiving updated equipment from its supplier in Panama, from which it leases equipment to screen the blood, and this will mean that a new re-agent, which the Government would have to purchase, would be used for the screening of blood for HIV.

He also noted that in Belize, the supply of donated blood is relatively low, and as a result, some of the reagents normally used by the Ministry of Health to screen the blood had expired.

“We don’t get the number of donors that we could,” Manzanero told us.

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