A new pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) were inaugurated at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City on Tuesday, October 27, 2015. The project, spearheaded by Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children, came about in 2009 and has taken years of work, planning and fundraising to come to fruition.
Construction started in July of 2013 with contractor Gutierrez and Associates and Architect/Project Manager, Esther Ayuso on the ground. Two years and over five million dollars later, Belize’s National Referral Hospital finally has a dedicated space tailor made to care for critically ill children and babies.
The impact of the services that will now be available through the PICU/NICU will be tremendous. Babies coping with birth complications, premature and poly-traumatized babies; children with complications from cancer treatments, trauma, post-cardiac surgery, HIV, tuberculosis, pneumonia, meningitis and other conditions will have access to the specialized and lifesaving care that they need.
With over 11,000 square feet, the PICU/NICU is outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and beds, cribs, incubators and bassinets to accommodate 42 patients. In case of emergencies or outbreaks, that capacity can also be doubled. Notable features include three levels of neonatal care, 4 isolation rooms to aid infection control, a wireless telemetry monitoring system and respiratory therapy. The new hospital wing also includes features to accommodate families staying with sick children, such as sleeping quarters for parents, a recreation area for patients and siblings and a breastfeeding room for new mothers.
In her remarks, Mrs. Simplis Barrow reflected on the young and delicate patients that will benefit from the success of this huge undertaking saying, “A newborn baby, premature and attached to life by a fragile thread; a young child recovering from major trauma or the complications of battling with cancer; a tiny patient struggling with a defective heart…this is what this building signifies.”
Following the handing over of the structure to the KHMH, other patient care improvement efforts will include the recruitment of two neonatologists, staff recruitment and additional training of physicians and nurses in critical care and emergency management of children. Standards, protocols and infection control systems are being revised and developed. Monitoring and evaluation strategies are being adopted and strengthened to address issues of patient care quality and to identify potential threats to the health of patients. The unit is expected to be fully operational by the first week of December 2015.
On hand at the opening ceremony were some of the major partners who supported the PICU/NICU Project: the OAK Foundation, the Government of Belize, the Social Security Board, Belize Children’s Trust, Fabrigas Belize Ltd. and the Lifeline Foundation. They each received a token of appreciation and are featured as major donors on a will of the unit.