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Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 21:39:20 -0500 (CDT)
From: Haiti Progres <HAITI-PROGRES@prodigy.net>
Organization: Haiti Progres
Subject: This Week in Haiti 17:1 3/24/99
Article: 59968
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.330.19990408001538@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Healthcare hell in Port-de-Paix

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 17, no. 1, 24-30 March 1999

The Immaculate Conception Hospital in the northwestern city of Port-de-Paix is not a place where you want to end up. The beds and toilets are broken. There is hardly any equipment, and even if there were, the electricity to run it is hard to come by. The hospital's unkept grounds are used both as a thoroughfare and as an open-air public restroom by residents from closely surrounding shantytowns.

Nonetheless, with 90 beds, 20 full-time and auxiliary nurses, eight doctors and four medical students, it is the only medical game in this town of over of over 20,000 people.

About five months ago, Dr. Rony Pierre took over as hospital director with an all-new medical team. Things have also improved with the arrival last month of 14 Cuban doctors, part of the 300 deployed at Cuban government expense in cities and villages around Haiti.

The head of Port-de-Paix's Cuban medical brigade is Dr. Chavez, who specializes in internal medicine and assists in the operating room when necessary. We have adapted to working under the conditions of Port-de-Paix, said Dr. Chavez, and we have a good working relationship with the Haitian staff.

Dr. Pierre agrees, but the infusion of capable new doctors has brought into relief the hospital's desperate lack of medicine and equipment.

For example, one of the Cubans is an anesthesiologist, but the hospital lacks any anesthesia machinery in its operating room. Meanwhile, the infirmary doesn't even have an incubator.

What meager equipment the hospital does have is overused. We have to use the ambulance to transport the Cuban doctors to and from the hospital, Dr. Pierre explained. The government should provide enough resources so the ambulance doesn't have to be used for that.

In general, government authorities neglect healthcare especially in the provinces, according to Dr. Pierre. Therefore, despite the dedication and good will of many doctors and nurses, patients usually lack adequate care. The hospital personnel want to work, but they lack the tools, Dr. Pierre said. The patients deserve better.

Most of the cases received at the hospital, according to Dr. Chavez are malaria, diarrhea, and a few cases of meningitis coming from the island of La Tortue and the Far West area known as Paskatabra.

The hospital ward is particularly grim. Patients complain that they can't sleep on the broken-down beds and that there is no security about who comes and goes. They also say that on occasion they have had rocks thrown at them when they go to sit outside in the cool evening air. The toilet is completely non-functional so patients must relieve themselves on the grounds outside, just as their shantytown neighbors do.

Despite such obstacles, Dr. Pierre, who was born and raised in Port-de-Paix, still dreams of seeing the hospital providing adequate care to the city and its surrounding countryside. But until there are new government priorities, the realization of that dream remains a long way off.