Belmopan, Wed. Sept. 1, 2021– The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Kingdom Department for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (UK FCDO), and the British High Commission, today handed over the Palm View Center in Belmopan to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW). This newly retrofitted facility becomes Belize’s first “Smart Health Care Facility” as an ongoing process takes place through which five selected institutions will be upgraded.
The retrofitting works began in October 2020 — with Guerra’s Construction Ltd. and Gutierrez and Associates Architects, carrying out the construction; and design and inspections respectively. Various infrastructural, electrical, and plumbing upgrades were done, in addition to accessibility installations. Some of the key works undertaken as a part of the project were the remodeling of the administration center, repairing of water-damaged areas, installation of furniture, remodeling of patient restrooms, installation of plumbing fixtures, and pressure washing and painting of the exterior, installation of LED lighting, fans, air conditioning, the installation of a PA system and window medicine dispensary were among many other upgrades.
Similar processes will commence at four other facilities countrywide: the San Ignacio Community Hospital, Independence Polyclinic, Isabel Palma Polyclinic, and Cleopatra White Polyclinic. This will all be undertaken as a part of phase II of the Smart Health Care Facilities in the Caribbean Project through which roughly £43.8 million (BZ$122.3 million) is being used to upgrade healthcare facilities across seven Caribbean countries — Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, Jamaica and Belize. The primary purpose of this project is to increase facilities’ resiliency in the face of disasters and climate change.
According to PAHO/WHO Representative in Belize, Dr. Noreen Jack, more than 67% of the hospitals located in the Caribbean and Latin America are located in disaster-prone areas. Noting this, PAHO believes healthcare facilities in Belize must be able to deliver quality care to patients during emergencies while considering the safety of their staff. The impacts of COVID-19 have highlighted the importance of this initiative. Healthcare systems across the region have been stressed and are operating at their maximum capacity. As a result, emergency and disaster preparedness remains a focal point for the collaboration between PAHO and UK FCDO.
British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Claire Evans OBE, also shared remarks on the importance of emergency and disaster preparedness, especially in a vulnerable region. She noted, “Living in this part of the world, we, and our neighbors, are hit by natural disasters every year and along with our vulnerability to climate change, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of our health services has been highlighted like never before. It has shown how the right functional support structures and layouts can really help, or if not right, can hinder the amazing work being delivered by so many wonderful health care professionals, and all those who work to support their efforts. The SMART health care facilities programme, supported by the UK and delivered in partnership with PAHO, with support from the Government of Belize, is another example of the UK’s commitment to helping vulnerable communities to guard and protect their resources against future storms, disasters and the increased risk from Climate Change.”
Hon. Michel Chebat, the Minister of Health and Wellness, conveyed his appreciation for the donation and commented that this new initiative is in line with the Government’s commitment to all facets of healthcare in Belize. He said, “Due to Belize’s geographic location, its risk for devastating effects of climate change is exponentially high; therefore, to build infrastructure that can withstand the impact of natural catastrophe is essential.”