It’s been many days since I’ve sent any updates, and I could probably write a book about the past three days alone. I’ve been back to Haiti for three days but is seems like a lifetime!
Suzy Fitzgerald led the Relief International emergency response medical team through the first week of work, seeing more than 2,400 patients. We have had nine physicians, three nurses and a paramedic on the medical team (nine of these from Kaiser Permanente). In the humanitarian relief world, organizations usually either do emergency relief or development. Relief International is one of the few organizations I know that does both well. We have been running a single fixed clinic and occasional mobile clinics in the Carrefour area, just east of Port au Prince, near the epicenter or the earthquake. While our clinical staff has been very busy with patient care, Relief International’s staff has been busy applying for additional funding to continue relief operations and establish development programs.
Our presence here doing disaster relief has contributed significantly to the success of qualifying for the two grants for which RI has applied. Four weeks after the earthquake, much remains to be done. There are many people who still need definitive care for infections, poorly healed fractures, amputations, and other trauma from the earthquake. In addition, the mental health, physical therapy, and occupational therapy needs are huge. At the same time, there is a rebuilding process that has to begin for the entire society.
Relief International has received two grants to continue the health sector rebuilding process. The bigger one is for six months and includes funding to establish five primary care clinics staffed by both local health care providers and international volunteer staff. We will continue running the current clinic and have tentatively identified sites for the five others. In addition, we have been busy looking into sources to hire local health care staff and have made an affiliation with one of the five collapsed medical schools in Port au Prince. This will allow additional training of local health care providers and contribute to the “capacity building” work done by RI. We are also looking to bring in another large cadre of volunteers from the U.S. before the end of February to support these clinics.
The second grant is to create a service that hasn’t previously existed here, which will fill a huge gap in the current health situation. There are many patients who are in health care facilities that need transport to a different facility, but there is no existing ambulance or patient transport service. Relief International has been given a grant that will support a five-ambulance “Critical Care Transport” team to fill that gap. Here again there is a need for more physicians, nurses or medics to help run this system for the next two months. This as well is under construction, and should be up and running within a week. We expect to bring in another 15 clinical volunteers before the end of February.
My apologies if this brief summary of a hugely complex process loses a bit of the intensity of what is going on here. In the midst of this continued chaos, the medical team is still doing incredible work. Our initial team is largely home and we have a second wave of incredibly motivated volunteers. It is an honor to be here to help. In the face of tremendous suffering there is still amazing opportunity and hope. We just have to get comfortable with the incredible uncertainty that also exists. Perhaps the attached pictures can say more about what the work is about than these words…. In the morning, our clinic day starts by doing a visual triage of the usually long line that begins to build around 4 a.m. We triage the sickest to come in first and then take the others as first come, first serve. One picture is of this triage of the morning line which on this day was 180 people long. The second picture is of one of our nurses with one of those sick babies that was seen first.