Port-au-Prince, Haiti

February 11, 2010

Kevin Connell

There has been a lot of activity in Port-au-Prince in the past few days. Overall in Haiti there has been a lack of coordination between medical facilities and suppliers. In response, Real Medicine has been networking with hospitals, NGOs, and UN agencies to build our own network to support the continued efforts at our clinics and partner facilities. The solidarity of the Haitian people, particularly through our partner, the First Baptist Church in Pernier, has been a major asset in maintaining our efforts despite the lack of coordination from the international players.

We were able to establish contact with Direct Relief International’s (www.directrelief.org) team in Port-au-Prince who is working to distribute medical supplies to health organizations in the relief effort. Direct Relief has already supported RMF’s work in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Peru. With the help of our partner organization, Chadasha, we were able to get several trucks over to DRI’s warehouse and receive about $200K worth of supplies, including antibiotic and hypertension medications, Pedialyte children’s rehydration drinks, adult electrolyte supplements, IV stands, sterile water and other materials that have proven vital to our ongoing services at the Real Medicine Foundation, Good Shepherd clinic in Pernier.

In addition, we have delivered about ¾ of the supplies to our new partner, Sacred Heart University Hospital, in central Port-au-Prince. The hospital has been a major placement for many of the doctors coming in through Chadasha, and they have major need for ongoing support. To illustrate the situation at Sacred Heart, the building that was originally designed to hold only 14 patients, yet has between 50 and 65 patients in-house on a given day (placed in numbered tents on donated mattresses out front). Dr. Crowley told me they have seen 4800 patients since the first day of the crisis, and are currently seeing about 90 a day. The volunteer staff of revolving doctors, nurses and EMTs has so far been able to rise to the challenge. Yet with new patients streaming into the makeshift triage tent every hour, there seems to be no end in sight for their efforts. 

In addition to the challenges of staffing (Dr. Crowley and her head nurse had been working 17 days straight), they are forced to make critical medical decisions often without knowing whether or not they will have the materials to carry them out. We are working with DRI to bring in additional supplies to specifically fill Sacred Heart’s critical needs for laxatives, stool softeners, suppositories, surgical supplies, orthopedic hardware and other items they have been unable to obtain. To underscore their desperation, when I was discussing these needs with the medical officer at the hospital, Dr. Justine Crowley, she and her head nurse were crying out of sheer frustration for the lack of an ongoing stream of effective supplies to meet the spiking patient flow. We hope to rectify this in the coming days with the support of DRI.

While en-route to Sacred Heart yesterday, I stopped to survey some of the damage off of Martin Luther King Junior road, which runs through the heart of downtown. Passing down an alleyway, the walls opened up to reveal what was essentially a wasteland of broken buildings and ruined livelihoods. One building had nothing remaining but its front door, a startling reminder that these aren’t just broken stones—that people used to live here.

As another team of doctors (staffed by Chadasha) leaves today to head back to the US, it is clear that more will be needed. We are working with our head nurse at our clinic in Pernier to establish a local Haitian staff. However the available medical workforce in the city is extremely limited, as 450,000 people have now left the city. We will work to maintain day-to-day operations through Chadasha’s assistance while we continue to search to fill the longer-term need.

Country Page: Haiti Initiative Page: Haiti Earthquake Relief Project