January 12 2015
Haiti we remember: At 1199 Headquarters in Manhattan
Ladies and Gentleman,
Five years ago, on January 12 2010 Haiti was stricken by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake which devastated the capital and surrounding cities adjacent to the epicenter. History of Haiti revealed that 240 years ago on June the 2nd, 1770 a similar event destroyed the same city of Port au Prince. Indeed, our historian Thomas Madiou in his book noted that most of the inhabitants of the city were living in tents similar to what was witnessed five years ago. He reported that 200 people died then, compared to the 230,000 dead, 300,000 wounded and 1.5 millions homeless in 2010. This monstrous earthquake also resulted in the destruction of close to 40 government buildings and 50 Hospital or clinics.
We are here today to remember Haiti and commemorate the event that happened 5 years.
The situation was clearly unbearable for most of the citizens of the capital of Port au Prince, and surrounding areas. The dust, the smell, the chaos traumatized our brothers and sisters. Hundreds were displaced from their homes and were in need of fresh water, food, care and medicines. The wounded were in the thousands, and the medical infrastructure was irreparably shattered or destroyed. A need for human and medical resources was deemed necessary. Fortunately the whole world swiftly responded. Teams of surgical groups from different countries moved in to the Caribbean island, developed makeshift hospitals and clinics as a rapid response initiative.
Volunteer medical professionals performed a range of duties from basic wound care to emergency surgeries, like amputations, to relieve the pain and the suffering of our fellow citizens. The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad , responded quickly through its disaster relief mission and proceeded to focus its efforts at the main General hospital of Port Au Prince. Our assessment was based on our Emergency disaster Relief chief in Port au Prince : Dr Aldy Castor. The first group from New York 80 individuals strong, under the guidance of the surgeon Dr Louis Auguste, NY and Pierre- Paul Cadet,Fl. organized the services and doctors assignments in the General hospital. A 7-14 day rotation was established. Our orthopedics team was directed by Dr. Maxime Coles and Dr Alexandre Dauphin AMHE member from McMaster university chaired anesthesiology services. The renewal of groups of physicians and nurses became on going to maintain and provide also services in medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, rehabilitation, psychiatry, Ob-Gyn(Remember Dr Mandeville looking for a Pizza one night, in a devastated city with no electricity).
The AMHE discovered that another hospital, which specialized in tuberculosis, was ruined. Therefore , TB patients wandering around posed a public health concern. They were retrieved, assigned to special tents in the General hospital and were cared for by our infectious disease specialists and other volunteers. It turns out to be a special duty of AMHE to maintain and care for TB patients for a period of 11 months to a year. TB medications and protein supplements were then provided to them .Tuberculosis care during the earthquake was made possible by our members and Infectious Disease specialists, Drs Vladimir Berthaud, Mona Rigaud and also a volunteer from California Dr Meghan Coffey. She became a permanent physician for the TB patients. A special grant of the AMHE Foundation allowed her to have lodging and transportation for a good while. Dr Coffey was subsequently recognized by AMHE and the Clinton foundation for her dedication
Our relief mission (comprised of physicians and nurses, HANA) continued to offer different services, not only in the General hospital but in others, like L’Espoir Hospital being served by the German group.
The Cuban doctors who were the first to reach Port Au Prince after the earthquake, had a contingent already on site and subsequently developed a rehabilitation center for the handicapped. Our neighboring country, the Dominican Republic was been helpful. Most of the wounded from the United Nations were brought to a Dominican Hospital called Cedimat were they received care. And the Dominican government facilitated the transport of our doctors from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince by temporarily suppressing the immigration barriers.
Doctors without Borders arrived later and worked on their own ad-hoc hospital but also were performing hemodialysis treatments in the General hospital. Mount Sinai hospital also gave significant aid not only by sending specialists(Dr Ernest Benjamin), but also medications.
The group Medishare developed a makeshift hospital and clinics and many of our nurses and doctors from South Florida and Tennessee worked with them.
Gieshkio compound with Bill Pape and Bernard Mevs hospital offered great services.
The International Society of Nephrology /American Society of Nephrology established a dialysis unit in neighboring Dominican Republic headed by our colleague Dr Bernard Jaar, AMHE member.
The ophthalmology services were being assured by our Haitian Americans doctors, Dr Daniel Laroche and Dr Mildred Olivier and the local eye specialists.
Sending volunteers and allied professionals to disaster areas was not an easy job.
Dr Paul Nacier , Dr Emmanuel Francois and I devoted a significant portion of our time to facilitate the process so we could maintain a constant flow of volunteers to replace people who became very fatigued after 10 days.
Dr Ruben Pamies, a member of AMHE and Vice Dean of Nebraska University was a volunteer who focused his attention in the organization of medical education for Haiti. He became a very important leader of a coalition of US-Canada medical schools
After a very successful meetings on March 15, 2010 in DC and subsequently in Montreal , a new plan was developed to allow four medical schools of the nation to start working together. A report from those meetings showed that the number of Haitian doctors practicing in Haiti was inferior to the number of Haitian American doctors practicing outside Haiti. The report specified that the four medical schools were not graduating enough doctors for the country needs in accordance with the parameters set by WHO. A Program for 5 years was promoted engaging 17 Medical Schools from Canada and 10 from the US to guarantee Good Medical Education and help solve that issue.
It is with great regret to say the Dr Ruben Pamies died one night while providing voluntary service to Haiti.
This program that he initiated died with the Interim Commission (ICHR).
The AMHE Medical Resident postgraduate program does not have the same scope but continues to build intellectual capacity for the Medical residents. 60 residents concluded that program so far. To know more, go to www.amhefoundation.org and click on AMHE Post-Graduate program.
How is the Medical Situation in Haiti on 2015?
The donor conference at the United Nations last week, confirmed that 12.5 billions of Dollars have been pledged for the Haiti Earthquake , 2.4 billions above the original estimates. However, The UN has also confirmed that 80% have been already disbursed. At the meeting with the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine DR Jean Claude Cadet, he confirmed that (1) a New Faculty of Medicine is being built. The(2) hospital of Saint Francis of Sales will open this week. (3)The University hospital of Mirebalais (Dr.Paul Farmer) is functioning well with new residents staring this year.
And Hospital of the University of Haiti, HUEH called General Hospital is also being built with delay because according to MSSP(Dr Florence Guillaume), the hospital still has to provide care and ambulatory care during the building construction.
Two GHESKIO constructions(Dr. Jean W. Pape), a hospital for patients with multiple drug resistant tuberculosis and a cholera treatment center, both by MASS Design Group, a Boston based NGO working in Haiti since the earthquake will be inaugurated on March 2015.
Let us conclude by saying that we do have hope at the end of the tunnel.
Eric L. Jerome, MD FACP FASN
AMHE Foundation President