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Partners to build Haiti hospital

By Elizabeth Cooney
Globe Correspondent / July 13, 2010

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Partners In Health, the Boston-based global health initiative that has been the face of health care in Haiti after the devastating earthquake six months ago, is building a new teaching hospital there.

The 320-bed, seven-building hospital will rise in Mirebalais in the rural Central Plateau, a 45-minute drive from the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the hard-hit capital. It will become a national referral center when it opens at the end of next year, seeing as many patients as are seen at the other 12 clinics in Haiti where Partners in Health currently works.

The new hospital will also train doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Teaching hospitals were among the 60 to 70 percent of health care facilities destroyed by the earthquake.

The project is the biggest in the 23-year history of Partners In Health.

“It’s ambitious,’’ Dr. David Walton, the group’s deputy chief of mission in Haiti and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said by phone yesterday. “We are dealing with a tragedy that is unprecedented, so our response has to be unprecedented. This hospital is really going to be a centerpiece of our earthquake response.’’

Partners In Health had been planning to build a 108-bed hospital in Mirebalais that would bring comprehensive primary and prenatal care to more than 160,000 people in the region, treating people suffering from tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, and malnutrition. But after the earthquake, the Haitian Ministry of Health asked the organization to expand its plan, leading it to add improved diagnostic capabilities, an intensive care unit, and six operating rooms equipped for thoracic surgery.

While private hospitals in Haiti offer such facilities, they are beyond the reach of most Haitians, 80 percent of whom live on less than $2 a day, Walton said. The new hospital, which will cost Partners In Health $15 million to build, will treat all comers. Partners In Health has raised $85 million for Haiti earthquake relief.

Walton, echoing former president Bill Clinton’s words as the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, said the project will “help Haiti build back better.’’

Partners In Health is working with its Haitian sister organization, Zanmi Lasante, on clinical care. On medical education, it has formed alliances with such US medical schools as Duke and Dartmouth, Walton said, in addition to its original relationships with Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s.

Elizabeth Cooney can be reached at ecooney@globe.com.

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