Rebuilding Haiti's Healthcare System
Haiti’s healthcare system was inadequate before the earthquake. Plagued by poor hospital infrastructure and too few medical personnel, most Haitians lacked access to basic health care services.
Most medical services were concentrated in Port-au-Prince. So when the epicenter of the earthquake occurred in this densely populated area, the impact on Haiti’s public health system was enormous.
Exacerbated by poverty, inadequate urban infrastructure, and political instability, the natural disaster quickly led to widespread devastation. Even the Ministry of Health suffered great losses – losing their main building and 200 staff members.
Ten months after the earthquake, cholera arrived in Haiti. With many Haitians still living in tent cities with inadequate sanitation, disease spread quickly.
Haiti now had to fight to recover from two terrible disasters.
Global Links is working with the Pan American Health Organization and Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC) to strengthen the health system outside Port-au-Prince through an international collaboration with the governments of Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti.
Supporting hospitals outside of Port-au-Prince increases healthcare access, especially in underserved areas where travel is difficult. Aquin, 85 miles from Port-au-Prince, is a regional hospital Global Links is assisting. Receiving supplies from Global Links, such as IV catheter needles, patient gowns, and sharps containers, helps the hospital provide continuous care to the local population.
All of the beds and many other furnishings in Port Salut have been donated by Global Links. Port Salut is 137 miles from Port-au-Prince, further down the coast from Aquin.
The international collaboration has the hospital at L’Archaie undergoing a renaissance. Dedicated Haitian medical staff work alongside Cuban doctors in a hospital recently refurbished with Venezuelan funds and supported by Global Links donations of hospital beds and medical supplies.
L’Archaie hospital serves a population of 130,000. It began as a basic Health Center, but in April of 2010, with investments from Cuba and Venezuela, it became a Comprehensive Integral and Diagnostic Hospital. Now it provides 24 health services including diagnostics, emergency care, and surgery – and all services are free. The hospital is open day and night, sees 275-280 patients a day, and attends over 100 births a month. The hospital catchment area has expanded to include Saint-Marc and Cabaret.
Another Global Links goal is to empower trained health care professionals working in Haiti who are personally invested in making a long-term improvement in the health of their fellow Haitians. We found the Haitian graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba (ELAM) to exemplify this mission.
After receiving his medical degree from ELAM, Dr. Patrick Dely returned home to head the Ministry of Health’s Department of Epidemiology. But in addition to his Ministry job, he reopened a school in Madiste.
The school plays a key role in the health of the community. Global Links helped to furnish and supply the clinic, and now, under the supervision of Dr. Dely, it can check for and treat childhood illnesses. The clinic also served as a treatment center during the height of the cholera epidemic.
“We are of the generation that believes that things can be different and change is possible,” explained Dr. Dely.
Global Links first met Dr. Douly Caillot, another ELAM graduate, when he was working close to the epicenter of the earthquake. Since then he has spent his own money for an ambulance, which he uses to provide free community health clinics as part of his private practice.
Global Links has helped to outfit the ambulance with patient transfer boards, collapsible IV poles, and other equipment for basic healthcare and emergency response. We were also able to provide a potentially life-saving portable ventilator.
Dr. Caillot has seen patients die for want of these materials, and he has shared these stories with Global Links. The experience has motivated him to give of himself in ways few are willing to do. Working with partners like these will speed the day when healthcare is accessible to all Haitians – a human right, not an unattainable dream.