Feature Disaster Relief

What next for Haiti’s healthcare?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c3078 (Published 15 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3078
  1. Sophie Arie, freelance journalist
  1. ariesophie{at}yahoo.co.uk

    Almost six months after the devastating earthquake, international medical agencies are winding down their operations. But does this spell an end to good, free health care? Sophie Arie reports from Port au Prince

    In the operating theatre at Choscal Hospital in Port au Prince, German surgeon Susanne Meiser works quickly and quietly with a German anaesthetist and two Haitian nurses to lance an abscess the size of a golf ball on the left temple of a baby boy. She squeezes out the pus and repeatedly cleans the inside of the punctured bubble with swabs soaked in antiseptic solution.

    In minutes, the little boy’s head is wrapped in clean bandages and he is handed back to his mother outside in the sweltering tent that is the paediatric ward. This small hospital serves 250 000 residents of Cité Soleil, one of the poorest, most troubled areas of the Haitian capital.

    “It’s not Germany, but for me the conditions here are quite good,” says Dr Meiser. She has worked here for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for nine weeks and seen the hospital become more organised and efficient. There is air conditioning, instruments are sharp and clean, oxygen is on tap (from a rusty old cylinder in the corner of the room), and generators make sure the lights don’t go out mid-operation. Crucial hygiene issues have been addressed: there are raised latrines (in anticipation of floods now the rainy season has begun), and a member of staff is working constantly at a sewing machine producing tarpaulin mattress covers and body bags.

    Routine care

    Across Haiti, international medical non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that provided emergency care after the January earthquake have found themselves dealing with more and more “normal” Haitian health problems.

    The day I visited the Choscal Hospital, there was a caesarean section and several incomplete abortions to …

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