Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Saving Lives, Changing Lives

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A new day starts, and in addition to patients arriving from PauP, not to be forgotten are our usual patients from the district, arriving with motorbike accidents, suspected malaria and such. The halls still have beds with quake victims, waiting to continue with the process of caring for their wounds and going in to surgery, followed by post-operative care, rehabilitation and discharge.

Yesterday, an orthopedics team came from Miami for two days to support the Haitian surgeons. Today they have been replaced by several trauma surgeons from University Sherbrooke, Canada, who will stay for several weeks.

On Wednesday, an orthopedics team from Atlanta’s Peachtree Orthopedics, who have worked with HAS since it opened, will be coming with surgeons, anesthetists, and operating room nurses. One of the key points that we have learned is that in cases like this, when many physicians volunteer, it is most useful if they come with a team, which includes nurses, and which can function autonomously next to the existing teams, or in place of them on a temporary basis.

There are more international groups coming in to Port au Prince each day, some will come out to HAS today.

What is unclear for us here is the future demand from Port-au-Prince – several patients arrived yesterday with conditions which are not earthquake-related, and it is not clear if this is the first of many which will seek out HAS as the preferred hospital which is closest to town. We are communicating with Partners in Health about what the implications of this disaster are for the national health system, and what is the appropriate role for larger US-sponsored organizations in managing the demand for care when the major facilities are destroyed.

The tired nurses and doctors take heart in the arrival of reinforcements. However, we will never forget the magnificent response which emerged from everyone at HAS. No one paid any attention to shifts or hours, and remained at their posts to be able to serve the flood of patients. The spirit of the hospital has been positive and caring, and there is a recognition that we can respond to an extreme challenge with professionalism and human concern.

Each day when I go into the hospital, I pass under the metal plaque which spells out, in French and Creole, Albert Schweitzer’s concept “Reverence for Life”. Never, in my history of association with his writings and his work, has the meaning of that phrase been more clear.

Ian Rawson