A request for help in Haiti

This request comes from MI-AIMH member Jan Ulrich who lived in Haiti some years ago and is very familiar with the Haitian Community Hospital caring for babies and young children.

The Haitian Community Hospital is a small private hospital with the only ICU in the Port-au-Prince area. It has operated since 1985 when Dr. Edith Hudicourt expanded her clinic to address a greater need. They charged a low fee of $3 (US) for a consult in order to be as self-sustaining as possible. All fees were suspended in response to the earthquake, however. In addition to their own staff, they have had many volunteer medical teams helping from around the world since then. They have had many donations, but the work is not over and there is new need coming. There were additional expenses created by the electrical outages, lack of safe living quarters and food shortages.

MI-AIMH member, Jan Ulrich, had the good fortune to have Dr. Hudicourt as her doctor when she lived in Haiti in the early 1980’s. She knows the commitment this woman (and several of her 11 children who have followed her into medicine) has to improving health care in Haiti. She has corresponded with the family since the earthquake and followed their story on Facebook.

If you are in any position to contribute financially to the work of the hospital, they have a secure Paypal link on their website www.haitihosp.org and will make the most of every cent you can give. Following is a post that one of Dr. Hudicourt’s daughter’s wrote for Facebook on Feb 8 which talks briefly about the babies being born into the crisis.

“On Sunday evening, I drove into the Haitian Community Hospital’s yard and I was shocked by how quiet and empty it was. Most of the tents that were serving as outdoor hospital rooms were gone. The French medical crew had made a deal to donate some of the tents to patients who needed to be discharged but were staying in the yard because they had nowhere to go. Indoors, most of the rooms are still occupied by 3 or 4 patients but there are no more patients waiting in the halls for surgery, and the triage area which took all of the front lobby and first courtyard was clear.

“I had gone with Dr. Yvonne Ankah, a volunteer OB/GYN from Illinois who is staying with our family and who wanted to check on 2 of her patients. Babies are born every day now but there are no real rooms for the moms. They stay behind screens in a large open space near the delivery room.

Today the Rescue 24 Baptist guys from North Carolina undertook a project to improve the hospital kitchen. The kitchen space was built before the event but it had not been functional. Patient families had to bring food. A couple of weeks ago we received donations of bulk food. The Boulos family brought some gas stove tops and the hospital began serving one meal a day. We have 4 Haitian volunteers in the Kitchen: Alex was a Montana hotel cook, Marie Carme is Ecole Acacia’s cook, and 2 other people. On Sunday, only Alex came to cook and the Rescue 24 guys came to help feed the patients and staff. Today they told us that they wanted to improve the kitchen. They found a sink on the roof of the hospital and went to the hardware store to get what they needed to install it. They asked for a table, and Max went to pick up Edith’s old wooden examination table from home. The Rescue 24 guys wanted plywood to make shelves, and we found some old doors and scrap plywood. (A German team of volunteers had just built a door to look up their supplies.) So for now, the patients are getting some donated nutritious cookies in the morning and a meal of mostly rice and beans in the afternoon. Most often there is a small amount of animal protein with the beans, like canned fish or canned meat. Today was special because the USVI team donated 2 hams. The rescue 24 guys would like to feed 3 times a day and Edith, my mother, has suggested that most Haitians like "labouyi" or porridge in the evening. We do have some powdered milk and oatmeal in storage.

“So quality of life is improving quite a bit for those who are still in the hospital. In fact, all the patients are on beds or cots now. There was a time 20 days ago when a good piece of cardboard was all patients and families were asking for so that they wouldn’t sleep on the hard cold floor. Many have been discharged. I miss and worry about the ones I got to know. I worry most about 16 year old Ricky, an amputee, who left for Port-de-Paix with his grandmother. Apparently I should not worry because his grandmother called the hospital roommate to say that they’d made it safely, and there is a descent hospital in Port-de-Paix. The patients who have not gone too far will come back for wound care, cast removal, external fixator removals.

“Patients do keep coming. The waiting room in the lobby was reconstituted and it was quite full this morning. There were many mothers with sick babies. Now that broken bodies are on the mend, we need to worry about spirits. A young girl came last week seemingly lifeless. Her heart rate was normal, her pulse was normal, her blood sugar was normal, but she was limp and her open eyes did not blink when the doctor moved his hand close to her face. Someone called that hysteria, someone called it transfer but what the mother said was that she had been in church and the pastor was talking about the possibility of even worse Catastrophe, maybe all of the land would go under water. And the girl collapsed. She could not move for 24 hours, she was unresponsive, except for the tears in her eyes.

“Who will heal the spirits? What will heal the spirits? The government has declared that next weekend, the weekend that was to be Mardi-Gras weekend, is officially a time for prayer and renewal. We worry about Spring. Last night it almost rained. We are in the dry season and there hasn’t been any real rain since the quake. Yesterday it drizzled for about 5 minutes. There was a lot of conversation about rain today among the staff and volunteers who still sleep outdoors because they are afraid of their cement roofs or because their home is not livable.

“Yes, people realize that the rain will come. I have very mixed feelings about the rain. Most plants look terrible these days. The hospital lawns have taken a beating with all the people who lived there and if there is no rain soon the grass will be dead. It might already be dead. Medical staff talk about the spread of infectious disease being a scary thought in tent cities when rain comes. Right now pneumonia is a fairly common diagnosis. Too much dust.

“There is a lot of talk about the financial burden of the earthquake. Many families have lost everything, many business will never recover. At the hospital there is also talk of money. Before January 12 the hospital charged fees for services (U$3 for consult, U$20 for X-ray). All fees were dropped after the quake. We decided to worry about money later; "the money will come somehow." Many people have contributed and raised funds for the HCH. Many people have collected, brought, shipped supplies. We are still worried though and we have been meeting with other hospitals about what to do. HCH is a cheap hospital, but even the most expensive hospitals dropped all fees.

“The question to ask is , when every foreign doctor and nurse is gone, will Haitian private and semi-private hospital still exist? Will they have paid their creditors for the fuel for generators, for the cleaning supplies, for the X-ray films? Will the Haitian government really act on its promise to pay staff salaries? The foreign volunteers are coming and giving a week or two for free but the Haitian doctors are staying and will need to pay their bills. At HCH the current compromise is that Earthquake victims continue to be gratis, but new patients with other problems need to pay. Not a perfect solution".