Belize: Statement from the Ministry of Health and Wellness stated new strategies to defeat COVID-19.
In early December 2020, Dr. Melissa Diaz was asked by the Minister of Health and Wellness, the Hon. Michel Chebat, to report to Belmopan to perform interim Director of Health Services (DHS) duties focused on the COVID-19 response while Dr. Manzanero proceeded on holiday. Dr. Manzanero was informed of this, and he acknowledged that he was aware.
Dr. Diaz reported to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), Belmopan, on December 8, 2020, intending to get handing over notes from Dr. Manzanero; however, that morning, we received news that he tested positive for COVID-19 and would proceed on sick leave.
Dr. Diaz received an official correspondence from the Ministry of the Public Service posting her to perform DHS commencing on December 8, 2020, for three months.
This posting was necessary as the country was going through a raging pandemic and the difficulties of the system allow for temporary movement of public officers by the CEO of the Ministry of the Public Service without the need for approval by the Public Service Commission.
Dr. Melissa Diaz is a medical doctor with a specialty in Family Medicine. She has a postgraduate degree and is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners. She has over 21 years of experience as a practicing medical doctor in both clinical and managerial posts.
She has worked in Belize since April 2008, where she worked at Matron Roberts Polyclinic as the medical coordinator. In 2016, she was asked to join the management team at Central Region Headquarters as Primary Care Coordinator and then asked to take on Deputy Regional Manager’s desk. In December 2020, she was temporarily posted to the Office of the DHS.
Due to the unfortunate situation that has unfolded around the DHS post, she has decided to return early to her substantive position as Deputy Regional Manager of the Central Health Region. She continues to work to combat the pandemic and roll out a successful COVID-19 vaccination plan while meeting the other health needs of the population.
However, it is essential to note that throughout her time posted with the DHS’s duties, she has worked tirelessly with an incredible team of persons at the MOHW.
Our COVID-19 numbers were controlled, and our health system was given some time to recuperate and prepare for a possible third wave.
New strategies were put in place to control the outbreak, including the restructuring of the lab processes, taking the wait time for test results from almost 20 days to two days. The mobile rollout of rapid testing occurred all over the country, with a heightened sense of motivation and pride by our health workers to go out and test, isolate and treat patients to the best of their ability.
Testing protocols and standardization of care were put in place. The community worked with us to adhere to the public health measures, and the new SI assisted with the control of social events by implementing curfews and fines to those who broke the law. It was nothing short of remarkable, and this story should one day be told.
Healthcare is never about any person but about commitment to teamwork, team building, and a unified effort to improve our country’s health system.
The work done by the almost 4,000 health personnel during the last ten weeks must be commended, and the true heroes of this fight should be acknowledged and highlighted. We must give praises where praises are due.
At MOHW, we will remain focused on the task that lies ahead of us as we embark on one of the most demanding healthcare programs ever- the COVID-19 vaccine rollout activity.