Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2021. 10:30 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Late Friday evening, the Ministry of Health and Wellness issued a statement confirming the departure of interim Director of Health Services, Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa, and clarifying the issues surrounding the post held substantively by Dr. Marvin Manzanero, now sent on administrative leave.
Notably, the Ministry does not address what will happen to Dr. Manzanero, who faces a charge of neglect of duty in failing to accept an offer from the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) to assist in testing, and thus involuntarily contributed to an explosion of deaths in the months after August of 2020. Prime Minister John Briceno has gone out of his way to insist that he respects and salutes Dr. Manzanero’s work in the early days of the pandemic, but also to insist that change was needed.
According to the Ministry, Dr. Diaz-Musa was asked by Minister Michel Chebat to take over in early December while Dr. Manzanero took a holiday; he was informed and acknowledged that he was aware. But on December 8, when Dr. Diaz-Musa reported to Belmopan to get notes from Dr. Manzanero, the Ministry was blindsided by news that Dr. Manzanero had tested positive for COVID-19 and would proceed on sick leave.
Dr. Diaz was officially posted to serve for three months from December 8 as approved by the Ministry of the Public Service; the Ministry of Health says that with the ongoing pandemic at its heights, the system allows for temporary movement of public officers by order of the CEO of the Ministry of the Public Service, which does not require approval by the Public Service Commission.
Dr Diaz-Musa is substantive Deputy Regional Manager of Central Health Region and has now returned to that post. The Ministry listed her various qualifications including more than 21 years of experience and much of that in Government service starting at the Belize City Matron Roberts Polyclinic. She will continue to be called on in the fight against COVID-19 and the national vaccination plan.
But, the Ministry emphasizes, she never acted alone; there was “an incredible team” that came together to substantially reduce and control the burgeoning pandemic and buy time for the next potential wave of infection. The Ministry points to the restructuring of the testing process, adding mobile rollout of rapid testing countrywide and formal testing protocols and standardization of care, and the cooperation of the public in adhering to the public health measures already in place.
The Ministry concludes, “It was nothing short of remarkable and this story should one day be told. Healthcare is never about any single person but about commitment to teamwork, team building, and a unified effort to improve the health system of our country. The work done by the almost 4,000 health personnel during the last 10 weeks must be commended and the true heroes of this fight should be acknowledged and highlighted. We must give praises where praises are due.”
It says it will now move on to rolling out COVID-19 vaccines as they arrive in-country, with 1,000 doses already here from Barbados and more to come.
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