There is going to be a healthcare crisis in Haiti in the next few years if things don’t markedly improve, says Jocelyn David, MD, chief hospitalist at the Miami VA Healthcare System in Miami, who has traveled to the island nation four times since the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Dr. David returned on Aug. 15 from a four-day trip she took with the Haitian Resource Development Foundation to assess the needs of smaller hospitals outside the capital of Port-au-Prince.
"People are traveling from the capital to these hospitals because the hospitals in the city are overwhelmed and struggling due to a lack of funds," Dr. David says.
Some city hospitals, such as CDTI du Sacre Coeur Hospital, one of the country’s more modern medical facilities, have outright closed, she says.
“I was surprised that I didn’t see any improvement,” says Mario A. Reyes, MD, FAAP, FHM, director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Miami Children’s Hospital, who volunteered in Haiti in January and went back in August to visit the Children’s Hospital of the Hopital de l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti (HUEH), the largest academic public pediatric hospital in the capital.
The Children's Hospital is uninhabitable; medical staff are treating patients in makeshift wood houses provided by the United Nations, he says. Children sleep in hospital beds without mattresses, and oxygen tanks are shared by four or five children. There are no ultrasounds, and ventilators, IV lines, and antibiotics are in short supply, he says.
"There is a frustration among Haitian physicians that things aren't being done as quickly as they should," Dr. Reyes says. "The needs are immense."
Dr. David plans another trip to Haiti in October to train healthcare providers in BLS, ALS, and intubations in order to expand the limited emergency care. Meanwhile, Dr. Reyes and a group of physicians who work at Miami Children's Hospital are organizing professional and academic trips to HUEH so physicians can lend their expertise.
"That's what the Haitian providers want," he says. "They want us to teach and work with them."
The first trip is planned for December, and the group hopes the American Academy of Pediatrics will endorse their effort, which likely will include donating medical equipment and developing a telemedicine program.
Pediatric hospitalists who are interested in joining one of the trips to the Children’s Hospital of the Hopital de l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti can contact Dr. Reyes at 305-668-5500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.