Wednesday, July 24, 2024

European Union (EU) and PAHO/WHO donate a 16-module GeneXpert machine to Belize’s Central Medical Laboratory and MoHW bids farewell to the EU’s Team Leader in Belize

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Through the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the European Union Directorate-General for International Partnerships (formerly EU-DEVCO) donated a 16-module GeneXpert machine to the Central Medical Laboratory (CML)/Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) as part of the EU-WHO regional project on Health Systems Strengthening of Universal Health Care (UHC).

The donation of this 16-module analyzer will allow the lab to run more tests simultaneously and will enhance its diagnostic capacity for early detection of various disease-causing organisms. Of further significance, the GeneXpert will mainly assist with the overall testing for sexually transmitted diseases, but could also facilitate the expansion of the lab’s molecular testing capabilities for COVID-19.

“This is a significant and essential investment in strengthening the country’s laboratory capacity to timely detect and respond to emerging and reemerging infectious diseases like COVID-19, within the context of International Health Regulations,” said Dr. Noreen Jack, PAHO/WHO Representative in Belize. “Through ongoing collaboration with partners like the European Union, we can continue to support the Ministry and the country. For example, through the Health Sector Support Programme (also funded by the EU), we are currently supporting health systems strengthening, retrofitting of six health facilities, as well as assisting in the fight against the current pandemic.”

This state-of-the-art analyzer will allow laboratory technicians to deliver faster and quality-assured laboratory services that will guide the decision-making process of physicians and improve overall patient care. This automated rapid diagnosis technology will aid Belize’s health system to effectively detect and respond to infectious diseases, improve the surveillance of sexually transmitted infections, and tackle the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“The European Union recognizes that the Government of Belize achieved to stem the corona virus outbreak in the country and to protect its population from even more severe impacts of the pandemic,” said Mr. Nicolaus Hansmann, EU’s Team Leader in Belize. “Since April 2020, the European Union supported the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Wellness with three million Belize Dollars in equipment, supplies and services. Through our partnership with PAHO, today’s delivery of a 16-module GeneXpert machine to the Central Medical Laboratory will further strengthen the capacity of the health sector to control further outbreaks.”

As the only national referral laboratory in Belize, the CML’s overall capacity to conduct molecular diagnostic testing will be upgraded, while staff efficiency and productivity will be enhanced. Given the need to address backlogs especially during emergencies even beyond COVID-19, it is expected that both the access to diagnosis and timeliness of results will be improved with this technology.

“As we continue to grapple with the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, this GeneXpert machine will allow our laboratory personnel to receive results in a timely manner and it will allow for isolation of COVID-19 cases,” said Hon. Michel Chebat, Minister of the Ministry of Health and Wellness. “I extend appreciation to our partners and reaffirm the commitment of the Government of Belize to protect our people.”

The EU is one of the lead contributors to global health and has been partnering with the PAHO/WHO Belize country office for almost 20 years in projects that advance the goal of providing a more efficient and higher quality health care for the people of Belize. Mr. Nicolaus Hansmann has been the Team Leader of the EU in Belize for three years, and we must say thank you and appreciate the guidance and hands-on collaboration he has given on behalf of the European Union, as he ends his tour of duty in the country.

Furthermore, in response to the request from the National AIDS Commission (NAC), PAHO/WHO also donated a smaller 4-module GeneXpert to the Ministry of Health and Wellness to support its efforts in decentralizing testing for TB, viral load testing for HIV and other tests in the regions, as part of the overall strategy of strengthening the national laboratory network.

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