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 with the intention of getting 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 duties of DHS commencing December 8, 2020 for three months.

This posting was necessary at this time as the country was going through a raging pandemic and the exigencies of the system allows for temporary movement of public officers by the CEO of the Ministry of the Public Service without the need for an approval by the Public Service Commission.

Dr. Melissa Diaz is 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, and in 2016, she was asked to join the management team at Central Region Headquarters as Primary Care Coordinator and then asked to take on the desk of Deputy Regional Manager. 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 made the decision to return early to her substantive post as Deputy Regional Manager of Central health Region. She continues in the work to combat the pandemic and to help to roll out a successful COVID-19 vaccination plan while meeting the other health needs of the population.

However, it is important to note that throughout her time posted with duties of the DHS, she has worked tirelessly with an incredible team of persons at the MOHW. They came together as a team and made what people are saying impossible, possible. 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 restructuring of the processes of the lab taking the wait time for test results from an almost 20 days to two days. 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 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.

At MOHW, we will remain focused at 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.