Beyond The Horizon 2017: New clinic in Belize lays foundation for future

By Sgt. 1st Class Nichole Bonham U.S. Army South Public Affairs


Members of the Beyond the Horizon Task Force and the Belize Ministry of Health hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 9 for a newly constructed addition to the Ladyville Health Clinic in Ladyville, Belize.

The new clinic, which was completed as part of the Beyond the Horizon 2017, more than doubles the capacity of the current health center and lays the foundation for developing more robust health care assistance in the region.

BTH 2017 is a partnership exercise between U.S. Army South and the Government of Belize providing five construction projects and three medical events throughout the country.

The ceremony included a song by the students of Ladyville Evangelical School and remarks by members of the Ministry of Health; Col. John Simma, BTH Task Force commander; Adrienne Galanek, Chargé d’Affairs of the U.S. Embassy Belize; and Glenroy Fermin, President of the Belize District Association of Village Councils.

Ramon Figueroa, chief executive officer for the Ministry of Health, said construction of the new facility “fits into a plan by the government and the Ministry of Health in terms of seeing how best we can extend access and coverage to the population.”

Dr. Javier Zuniga, Belize District Regional Manager for the Ministry of Health, , elaborated by saying, “the plan to strengthen primary healthcare services in this area is well on its way to become a reality.”

After the ceremony, Zuniga described how the clinic currently operates and what impact the new structure will have. Health centers such as the original structure at Ladyville, can service 2,000 to 4,000 patients a year, referring more serious needs directly to larger facilities in Belize City.

Zuniga added the new building will allow the Ladyville Health Clinic to transition into a poly clinic, with a greater range of available medical services. Poly clinics can provide care to approximately 10,000 patients a year and can receive referrals from smaller clinics in the surrounding communities. The result is closer access to quality care for local residents and a reduced strain on Belize City medical facilities.

Construction of the new Ladyville building was accomplished by BTH engineers and Army reservists from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Montana, Wisconsin, Colorado and Texas over a three-month period.

“Our engineers worked shoulder to shoulder with the Belize Defence Force Engineers, Trinidad &Tobago Regiment and Engineers from Columbia.” Simma said. “It provided our soldiers with realistic training for both engineering and medical skills hard to train on, one weekend a month back home.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Herminio Romero, clinic project manager, and his core team from the 448th Engineer Battalion from San Juan, Puerto Rico, stayed for the duration of the build, assisting new Soldiers coming in every two weeks over six rotations.

“The main purpose is to do the entire mission and serve the communities of Belize. But the purpose too, at the same time, is to have training for the Soldiers,” Romero said.

He explained that because each team came in with their own tools and different levels of ability, time had to be spent on inventory, training, and assessments, leaving only about 10-11 days per rotation to go from a cold start to transition with the next team. 

Even though there were training requirements before each rotation started, the project remained ahead of schedule, allowing for the completion of several projects of opportunity. Aside from the originally planned 10 rooms, which include a triage room, asthma bay, and two private consultation rooms, the construction team also designed and built a concrete ramp for handicap access to the building’s entry, and painted the original building to match the new construction.

Romero’s efforts were recognized during the ribbon-cutting ceremony by Zuniga, “I can literally say his sweat is in the building."

Zuniga estimated the new building would be fully operational within one to two months, depending on the delivery schedule of medical equipment and supplies being provided by local and international NGO’s. The transition to a larger-staffed Poly Clinic would take slightly longer, but was expected to be up and running by the end of the year.