Posted by James F. Smith January 25, 2010 02:48 PM
Last week I worked with Boston Globe medical writer Stephen Smith, who has been in Haiti since just after the quake hit, on a story in the Sunday Globe about Partners in Health's quarter-century of work in Haiti. In addition, Globe photographer Dina Rudick, who has documented the disaster with powerful images, produced a remarkable video. It conveys Partners in Health's work in the capital as well as in the central plateau, including its impressive hospital at Cange. That facility is now treating hundreds of victims of the quake who fled the capital.
Here's Steve's account of the return to the US today of one of the first Massachusetts medical teams to have reached Haiti. Steve traveled with and reported on the team's extraordinary work.
In the first days after the Haiti quake, Boston-based Partners in Health focused on setting up functioning operating rooms in the main National University Hospital. Now it is branching out, and helping set up medical and other essential services into the neighbhoods around Port-au-Prince.
Partners in Health says it brought in a planeload of much needed equipment yesterday provided by GE, including four anesthesia machines, five-x-ray machines, 10 patient monitors, 10 ultra-sound machines, and technicians to run it all. Today, more planes are coming in with supplies including nine more anesthesia machines donated from Partners Health Care (no relation to Partners in Health) and the University of Miami.
In its updates over the weekend, Partners in Health said it has gotten 20 operating rooms going, staffed by Haitian doctors and nurses as well as foreign volunteers. The global health non-profit said it had organized 22 charter flights into Haiti, crammed with equipment and more than 140 surgeons and nurses.
PIH Executive Director Ophelia Dahl, who traveled to Haiti on Friday after directing the health group's initial response to the quake from Boston, reported:
The scene [at University Hospital in Port-au-Prince] is truly impressive in so many ways. Medical tents are lined up in a row, and, inside, beds and stretchers lie close together, most patients are post surgery, bandaged or in casts. They are now receiving narcotics. Operating rooms up and running now 24 hours a day.... [Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer] and I headed to Cange following our meeting. We went first to visit the church, which has probably 70 patients lying on mattresses in rows on the floor. All of them have casts on limbs or white bandages over their stumps. Dressings are changed every day by Haitian staff and volunteers and need to be changed for weeks to come. In the corner of the church is an overflow pharmacy; the piano has become a worktop and medicines cover the altar. Docs round on the patients. And, as always, relatives help their loved ones with simple tasks. There is mostly quiet, no one is talking much, but there is a sense of community.With the operating rooms functioning relatively smoothly in hospitals in the capital, PIH and other aid groups are planning to expand into 10 communities around the capital. "Local youths will be trained and employed to do community outreach and organize mobile clinics at which Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health) medical staff will treat patients."
The mobile teams will also provide truckloads of clean water.
Dr. Joia Mukherjee, the PIH medical director who spent the last two weeks in Haiti coordinating the emergency response, met with PIH staff at the Boston headquarters. The news update quotes her as saying:
"You guys have saved thousands of lives. We have supplied and staffed 20 operating rooms able to do emergency surgery. From zero to 20 within days is an amazing accomplishment."
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Worldly Boston is James F. Smith's report on people from our community who are making an impact in the world, and on people from abroad doing noteworthy things in Greater Boston. We live in the most global of communities. Worldly Boston helps share those stories.
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About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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