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Belize regional and district healthcare teams receive training to strengthen their emergency and critical care system hosted by PAHO, WHO and ESICM – PAHO/WHO

Belize City, Belize, November 06, 2023 (PAHO) – To strengthen Belize’s emergency and critical care system, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) hosted a two-day hands-on training for 27 regional and district doctors and nurses including those from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH). This follows an online course on critical care medicine offered by the WHO through the ESICM to over 150 health professionals in Belize, including the 27 who will be participating in the face-to-face training.

As one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality, acute respiratory infections have resulted in more than four million deaths every year, particularly in infants, children, and elderly persons. It is also one of the most frequent causes of consultation/admission to healthcare facilities and hospitals including intensive care units (ICU). Children and adults with injuries and severe infections, including COVID-19, as well as others with cardiovascular conditions, stroke, hypertensive emergencies, asthma, and acute complications of pregnancy may require critical care.

In Belize, there may be gaps and limitations in responding effectively and efficiently to medical emergencies. WHO also reported that persons with severe acute conditions and injuries succumb daily due to challenges in health care teams or individuals responding on time. Thus, in line with the WHO Global Emergency and Trauma Care Initiative, the training aimed to build and improve the capacity of healthcare teams to manage critical and acutely ill patients.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to highlight the fragility of public health systems globally and has revealed that even robust health systems can be rapidly overwhelmed and compromised by an outbreak,” said Dr. Edwin Bolastig, PAHO/WHO Health Systems and Services Advisor. “Strengthening of capacities and coordination from the national to regional then on to the primary care and community levels is imperative requiring consistent government oversight as they are uniquely equipped to enact organizing and standardizing measures, as well as collaboration and partnership with other global, regional, national and local partners.”

Through the training, participants including nurses, accident and emergency (A&E) physicians, medical officers, obstetrician-gynecologists, internists, pediatricians, and anesthesiologists will now be able to:

  • Build and strengthen their knowledge and practices in the early, effective management of critical and acutely ill patients during medical emergencies.
  • Build a multidisciplinary emergency response team (MERT) in hospitals to strengthen critical care delivery.
  • Improve the survival rates of individuals with acute illnesses and injuries being transferred from district hospitals to the KHMH and regional hospitals. 
  • Familiarize and build knowledge in the use of point-of-care technology in support of critical care management.
  • Monitor key indicators that impact the survival rate in emergency medicine and critical care. 
  • Evaluate and implement key existing tools for critical care in Belize using the WHO checklist.

“The synergy between WHO, PAHO, and the Belize Ministry of Health and Wellness exemplifies the power of collaboration. Together, we pool our resources, knowledge, and unwavering commitment to advance critical care in Belize and set a precedent for regional and global health development,” commented Dr. Jorge Hidalgo, Intensivist at the Belize Healthcare Partners Ltd and President of the World Federation of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine. “This training program is a testament to the foresight of our leaders and the dedication of our healthcare workers. It is designed not only to impart knowledge and practical skills but also to foster an environment of mutual learning, innovation, and continuous improvement.”

Due to the impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries and health systems are now moving into a new era of pandemic preparedness. Thus, training like this allows the system to foster a coordinated team approach. Although the goal of improved care, response, and treatment is to save lives, the health system must also be able to minimize disability and ill-health among survivors, including integration of mental health care.

“What we have to do as a country is to upgrade the skills of general practitioners, you all, who are on the frontline; that is the reality,” said Dr. Jorge Polanco, Director of Hospital Services and Allied Health of the MoHW. “We expect that we have an improved capacity to save the lives of those persons that end up in our facilities through improved emergency and critical care services. That is the vision.”

PAHO/WHO continues to partner with the MoHW and other partners to strengthen the practical skills and competencies of health professionals to navigate complex conditions that require more advanced treatment and care.

ICU training in Belize