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International Nurses Day observed as the world battles COVID-19 pandemic

In Belize, there is a chronic shortage of nurses; we thank all our nurses for their tireless and selfless work.

BELIZE CITY, Tues. May 11, 2020– A nurse is a special kind of worker. Especially during these times when the world is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of nurses on the frontlines of this war is of paramount importance, and a spotlight is being put on that role as the world takes the time today to honor nurses on International Nurses Day, which is the culmination of International Nurses Week, which started on May 6.

With only two deaths resulting from the novel coronavirus, Belize is in a much better position than most other countries in the region, and nurses played a vital role in the overall recovery of the country’s first wave of COVID-19 patients.

Today on the government’s webcast Meet the Experts, the Acting Director of Health Services, Ann Matute, and the Registrar of the Nursing and Midwives Council, Nurse Eleanor Bennett, were on hand to pay a special tribute to Belizean nurses and to shed light on some aspects of the nursing profession in Belize.

Matute told the virtual audience that, “In Belize, nurses must be commended, as they are managing an unprecedented workload by treating patients with COVID-19 while also maintaining other essential health services.”

“Nurses have always been and will continue to be central to health systems and have excelled as a part of the frontline response to the virus. In other words, we are the heartbeat of the health system. Nurses deserve praise, thanks and protection amid COVID-19,” she went on to say.

“Our major challenge is the shortage of human resources. Our nurses are making extra duties in order for coverage, more so with this pandemic. This morning at a press conference by the World Health Organization, it was mentioned worldwide that 90 thousand nurses have been infected, and 260 have died.

“Here in Belize, we had some scary moments, but no nurse was infected during the first wave. The greatest fear was in contracting the disease and bringing it home to relatives. With the training and the adequate supplies of PPEs, we were able to have zero infected nurses. Thank you nurses, for a job well done!” said Matute.

By the World Health Organization standard, there is an acute shortage of nurses in Belize.
According to Nurse Bennett, there are a total of 998 nurses in Belize, and 98 percent of those are female.

Acting DHS Matute explained that, “We have a huge shortage. The WHO has said that we need 105 nurses per ten thousand population for us to be working in the health system so that we could give better quality care to our patients.

“In Belize, we have 23 nurses per ten thousand – not even half of the 105. So, we are very, very short. And what is happening is that our nurses that we have right now are overworked. They’ve become fatigued. You have a lot of the nurses being absent from work because they are tired.”

Nurse Bennett said, however, that Belize is not the only country in which there is a shortage of nurses.

“And the shortage of nurses is not a problem that is unique to Belize; it’s an issue all over the world, and of course, we appreciate the work of our foreign nurses; however, it would be great if we had a complete cadre of nurses that were only Belizeans, but we certainly don’t have enough people interested in the profession, and yes, that contributes to the shortage,” Nurse Bennett said.

Amandala gives heartfelt thanks to all our nurses and other health professionals for their tireless and selfless work to our nation.

Feature photo: (l-r) Nurse Eleanor Bennett and Acting DHS Ann Matute 

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