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Hospitalists in Haiti


 

Hours after the devastating earthquake that shook the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine physicians, nurses, and administrators were drawing up plans to aid in the relief effort. One day after the quake, a tent hospital was erected at the airport, and dozens of providers were on the ground caring for the wounded, orphaned, and visibly shaken.

Hospitalists Amir Jaffer, MD, FHM, and Lisa Luly-Rivera, MD (photo, at right), recently returned from a five-day medical relief mission. They worked with surgeons and coordinated with nursing staff to ensure patients were properly hydrated and had the right pain medications. The staff also managed patients’ medical conditions and nutrition. Dr. Jaffer, an associate professor and the division chief of hospital medicine at the Miller School of Medicine, oversaw the transfer of 138 patients from a makeshift hospital to the new tent hospital, which opened Jan. 20 and offers spacious wards, a pathology lab, and two operating rooms.

“Most of the patients had a fracture, amputation, infected wound, or a spinal cord injury,” Dr. Jaffer says. “The conditions were dire when we landed. The role of the hospitalists was managing care. We also were involved in triaging patients who were being transferred.”

On Jan. 22, nearly 10 days after the quake, the university opened an imaging center radiology lab. “Some of the patients were splinted and needed X-ray,” Dr. Jaffer says, adding that more than 100 films were completed the first day. “Some patients were being brought in to us a week later who had fractures that had not been cared for.”

One of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti’s lack of infrastructure is wreaking havoc on rescue and relief efforts. The people are afraid to return to their homes, “and they have no place to go,” Dr. Jaffer says.

The 25 hospitalists in the HM group at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine are planning five-day rotations to Haiti. The hospital needs translators, nurses, and internal-medicine specialists to cover the shifts of providers traveling to Haiti. If you’re interested in helping out, send an e-mail to the university. If you’d like to assist relief efforts in Haiti, make a donation to the American Red Cross.

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