The KHMH is in a critical condition. And those aren't our words! That's how the hospital described itself in a candid and slightly alarming press release today.
As we've reported, the hospital has been having problems with its roof. Well, a full structural review has been done and the news is not good. The Hospital says, quote, "we know that there are multiple key areas of the hospital that we can no longer utilize until permanent solutions are in place."
Reinforcements have been put in place to prop up beams supporting the roof, but the unsafe areas covers half the hospital - and vital areas have had to be shut down. These are the Operating Theatre, the Central Sterilization Unit, the Imaging Department, the Specialist Clinics, the Pharmacy and Dietary Services. Now - Central Sterilization is a core function of the hospital - every single square of gauze used in the ER and every suture sewed requires a sterile set. It's unclear if the hospital will farm this service out to its regional counterparts.
So, what can you expect out of the hospital right now? The hospital says, quote, "we will continue to do deliveries and Caesarean sections and other serious, life threatening emergencies." And then it adds, quote, "The Accident and Emergency Unit can no longer be flooded with non- emergency cases."
So what's the solution? Well, the KHMH is waiting for a team of Mexican engineers to assess the facility. They specialize in the design and construction of Hospitals.
In closing, the KHMH release says, quote, "The KHMH pleads with the public…to understand that our capabilities are severely limited and will continue to be so for an indeterminate amount of time.
Since Wednesday, the national referral hospital has been providing only about fifty percent of services. The roofing of the facility has been confirmed to be compromised and about one hundred pillars are damaged; likely by an earthquake in offshore Honduras earlier this year. The K.H.M.H. Board of Governors has been looking at the different scenarios to cope with the crisis. As to the facility, a team of engineers from Mexico is expected to arrive to provide a further assessment. News Five’s Duane Moody goes one-on-one with the Director of Health Services for an update on the state of affairs at the hospital.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Today Ministry of Health officials met with the team over at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital to chart the way forward for the healthcare service provider on the heels of the crisis at the hospital. An initial assessment by engineers from the Ministries of Works and Health, the Pan American Health Organization as well as the Hospital Authority confirms that debris is falling from the ceiling and columns have been compromised. This has placed the hospital into an emergency mode, functioning at only fifty percent. A short-term fix has been put in place as Mexican engineers will be brought in to further assess the structure, which was built twenty-four years ago, in 1994.
Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services
“We were alerted of a situation at Karl Heusner last week Wednesday afternoon. Upon being alerted, I think we had one of our engineers from NEMC and we had asked an engineer who was attached at PAHO to go and take preliminary assessment in Belize City. Minister Marin went; he was already in Belize City, he accompanied that initial assessment and I believe Karl Heusner had their own engineer that was doing their own assessment and they started with remedial action on that same Wednesday. Subsequent to that, I believe we had Ministry of Works engineers do assessment and we had a verbal report from one of the engineers from a private company. All three reports that we have received in writing are giving due course of action needs to be taken in the short term (quick fixes), medium term and long term of what needs to happen at Karl Heusner.”
“What is the immediate fix that they gave?”
Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“One of that was reinforcement of the beam which is the one that seems to have fractured and then of course, one of the other recommendations is that there needs to be an in depth assessment of not just whatever was falling but the entire structure. And when we were alerted of that, from last week Thursday/Friday, we had tried getting some assistance through the PAHO country office and also with our counterparts in Quintana Roo.”
On Monday, the K.H.M.H.A. confirmed that the damage to the roof—believed to have been compounded with the January earthquake that had triggered a tsunami threat to Belize—is affecting the operating theatre, central sterilization unit, imaging department, specialist clinics, pharmacy and dietary service. And even as a medium and long term plan is being established, the ministry is trying to ensure that elective surgeries and clinical services resume. Director of Health Services, Doctor Marvin Manzanero explains the options available.
Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“Yesterday the Central Health Region Manager met with Doctor Coye to try to see how we will address quick fixes. For example specialist clinics, we are suggesting that maybe those can be delivered from the other health clinics in Belize City. We were considering opening hours beyond the twelve hours, probably going up to ten the night; opening on Saturday and Sunday to try to alleviate some of the flow of patients that go to Karl Heusner. I don’t know that any of the engineering reports had actually suggested that all these areas would be non-usable. I think that they said while we are working on some areas, we can cordon off portions of the hospital and the other portion should be fine to be able to work with. As options, we have made it known to Doctor Coye that even in terms of elective surgeries an option could be go to Western Regional, go to Northern Regional, we have operating theatres; if we feel that there’s not going to be an option to use those operating theatres in Belize City. So those are options that are being placed on the table from our end because we need to be able to be prepared for whenever the full report is done. C.E.O. Figueroa is this morning in Belize City at Karl Heusner trying to discuss further ways forward in terms of trying to ensure that we are not stopping the flow of health services.”
In terms of accident and emergency, the national referral hospital is still operational. Doctor Manzanero says that the public will need to assist.
Dr. Marvin Manzanero
“A&E has not been closed; that has continued. I think the differentiation that we are trying to make is try to ensure that people who go to A&E are real A&E cases as opposed to people who may very well be able to be seen in the outpatient department. I do know that last week Thursday/Friday what had been suspended were elective surgeries—and that’s understood—and outpatient clinics. We are trying to work with Karl Heusner to help get those up and going and if those services are eventually being given from some other facility, then that’s the way it’s going to be.”
A digitized copy of the building plan has been forwarded to Mexican engineers, who are to arrive in country later this week. Duane Moody for News Five.
Roof Still In Crisis, But KHMH Re-Opens Specialist Clinics
There is some encouraging news coming out of the KHMH tonight. No, the structural crisis covering half the building hasn't magically been fixed, but the hospital is re-opening its specialist clinics.
The clinics re-opened today - and the hospital admissions office is scheduling appointments for those patients who had pending appointments. A press release says, quote, "The KHMH appreciates the public's patience and continued support as we work to regain our full functioning as your national referral hospital."
There is no timeline for when that full functioning will be restored.
Since Mid-march the KHMH has been operating in emergency mode, where the hospital had to cut back services because the roof over a third of the hospital was structurally compromised.
Iron supports were used to prop different portions of the roof until a permanent set of repairs could be made.
Well, finally, on Monday, June 11, these repairs to the roof will start.
A press release from the KHMH says, quote, "...a plan to address these failures has been identified and will be applied over the course of the next few months.
During this time, the full cooperation of the general public, patients and staff is being requested, as these repairs will affect the level and safety of service delivered. " End quote.