Posted: Saturday, June 10, 2023. 11:06 am CST.
By Zoila Palma Gonzalez: On June 9, 2023, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the European Union (EU) officially handed over the newly retrofitted Punta Gorda Community Hospital (PGCH) to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) crediting the facility as a ‘Smart Health Care Facility.’
PAHO/WHO noted that with Belize’s annual precipitation ranging from 60 inches (subtropical) in the North to 150 inches (tropical) in the South, its low-lying coasts and rising sea level combine to make it vulnerable to hurricanes, flooding, and storm surges. Thus, health facilities must be able to deliver care effectively and efficiently in a safe environment that protects both staff and patients during emergencies.
This is especially relevant for the Punta Gorda Community Hospital which provides secondary care for 52 communities, many of which are remotely located at the end of flood-prone roads.
“Reducing the vulnerability of health care facilities is a goal that can be achieved as we see here today. The ‘smart’ initiative focuses on improving a facility’s resilience and strengthening structural and operational aspects with green innovations. We are grateful to the EU for entrusting us with the implementation of this project and the long-standing partnership we have to be able to retrofit six health facilities as well as to improve the overall health system in Belize,” said Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, PAHO/WHO Representative in Belize.
With a USD$688,022.00 investment for the facility, the Punta Gorda Community Hospital has undergone significant retrofitting works to improve overall safety, functionality, and sustainability.
Additionally, the entire facility has received exterior and interior repairs with new tiling, doors, and hurricane-grade storm shutters. The facility will also receive a new solar water heater.
“Today I am very happy to see the concrete results of the European Union’s Support to the Belizean Health sector in Punta Gorda,” said Aniceto Rodriguez, EU Head of Cooperation for Belize.
“The community hospital has been rehabilitated according to plans and within the allocated budget. It has now increased capacities, it is safer, more resistant to weather hazards and more efficient in using energy, electricity and water. It is also more accessible to the patients and able to deliver better healthcare services to the surrounding communities. I thank the Ministry of Health, PAHO and the contractors for the excellent joint effort to implement together with the EU this vital project for the wellbeing of Belizean people,” he added.
The Punta Gorda Community Hospital is the first of 6 health facilities to become a ‘smart’ hospital.
Funded by the EU and implemented by PAHO/WHO in collaboration with the MoHW, the Health Sector Support Programme Belize Project is one of the largest projects in the country with a funding of 8.8 million Euros.
Besides making health facilities disaster-resilient and climate-friendly, the project is also improving the structure, organization, and management of health services, and strengthening Belize’s health information system.
“Even after this project’s completion, the MoHW is adapting the use of PAHO’s Model Policy for smart health facilities for assessments of current and future facilities seeking to determine that balance between safety and an environmentally-sustainable setting, thereby reaching the goal of health facilities that are climate-smart and disaster resilient, that protect the lives of patients and staff and that continues to function when they are most needed. Plan Belize aligns with this achievement where we promised to retrofit or build new hospitals for Punta Gorda, San Pedro, and Belmopan,” remarked Hon. Kevin Bernard, Minister of the MoHW.
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