Regards to all,
As many of you may well be aware, I traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake on January 14 with the UM/Medishare group and stayed there through the 18th.
Although I was there for other reasons than just humanitarian ones, having lost my two parents in-law to the quake, I was able to engage fully in the medical relief efforts at the UN tent hospital by the airport. Thus I want to share several observations and also make some recommendations ( with no particular order) with the caveat that most of my reflections only apply to this specific help project of the UM/Medishare group at the UN compound. In doing so and in order to avoid useless repetitions especially after having reviewed the quite accurate reports provided by Dr Herold Merisier, Dr Evelyne Moise and Dr Rose-May Seide, I want to stick to the essential and where possible provide additional insights.
1. The motivation and the generosity of those involved with this project is tremendous
2. The initial actions were somewhat disorganized in light of the overwhelming chaos that was in place at the time. No one had a sense of how many doctors, nurses, other health professionals were arriving, leaving, and also what they were supposed to do. There was no real orientation at the site, no sign-out… Clearly with time those efforts were becoming more organized as could be expected .
3. Health professionals arriving and working at the site were not clearly identified by a recognizable logo, badge, coat, or a scrub. That would be helpful.
4. There needs to be a team leader and a shift rotation established for each team that are arriving
5. There needs to be a system of accountability for medical acts that are undertaken during the shifts.
6. For a lot of patients there’s no where to go after discharge and no mode of transportation. Therefore discharging patients to make room for new ones was becoming a great challenge.
7. At this juncture, it appears that what’s really needed are trauma teams or physicians trained for disaster relief.
8. The time for internists, FPs and other medical subspecialties will be coming quick though with the rising threats of infections and cardiovascular complications triggered by the enormous traumatic stress endured by the entire population.
9. Every team sould have creole-speaking physicians and nurses to ensure appropriate communication with patients as interpreters are not often available
10. If possible at all, sleeping and living arrangements for the visiting staff should be better arranged. And for those that have parents in Haiti with their homes intact, they should consider sleeping there at the end of their day if possible.
11. As far as food and water is concerned for the staff, protein bars are great but they should be dry. I found out that Powerbars melt like crazy and it’s a mess. Camelbacks are great to transport your beverages.
12. Gloves and masks are generally provided at the site, but an extra stash wouldn’t hurt just in case.
13. Not a bad idea to bring your own waterless hand sanitizers although some were provided at the site.
14. Cipro really works for traveler’s diarrhea as I found out first-hand
15. For those of you that didn’t get this yet, there’s no electric power and no running water in Haiti now. Phone communications are still very spotty and internet access is not constant. A good idea if possible is to bring a pre-programmed satellite phone. Maybe two-way radios might prove useful too.
16. Despite the rumors that would have you believe otherwise, violence was not widespread in Haiti and I was able to drive freely around town with some precautions. (At least until I left on the 18th)
17. If you can’t muster the courage to see dead bodies or smell the decomposition of corpses, stay home for now.
18. If you really want to help right now, chose a reputable Charity organization that you trust and send money to them. Those organizations have better ways on the ground to make things happen than you do. A lot of stuff that people send stay stuck in the airport and others may be too difficult to use by the population now in their present living conditions. Most that have survived are homeless and have no means of reconstituting or cooking some meals that are sent to them.
19. This is it for now. Thanks!