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Haiti: hospitals overwhelmed by events


Several hospitals in Haiti report to AyiboPost a problem of medical supplies shortage and a glaring lack of healthcare personnel as patients continue to flock in.

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In Tabarre, Médecins Sans Frontières receives ten patients, including severely injured gunshot victims, per day. To cope with the unusual influx, the institution has added over twenty beds, according to revelations to AyiboPost from director Jean Marc Biquet.

Due to recent gang violence, Haiti’s ports and airport are closed. MSF and other hospitals fear a « stockout » of medical supplies in a context where blood remains difficult to obtain and doctors struggle to get to work.

MSF continues to work, but « we are concerned, » admits Biquet.

In addition to the deteriorating security situation, the State University Hospital of Haiti, the country’s largest hospital, is currently out of service, according to statements from its director, Jude Milcé, to AyiboPost.

The closure of this center, along with many others, puts extraordinary pressure on the few hospitals still operating in Port-au-Prince.

malade abandonnée HUEH

A patient abandoned at the State University Hospital of Haiti (HUEH) in early March 2024. | © Jean Feguens Regala/AyiboPost

« We are overwhelmed by the events, » Jean Philippe Lerbourg, medical director at the La Paix University Hospital in Delmas, tells AyiboPost.

From February 29 to March 7, 2024, the center received 69 projectile victims and dozens of other wounded. « Pregnant women are flocking to the hospital due to the closure of other facilities, » reports Lerbourg.

At St. Boniface Hospital in Fonds-des-Blancs, doctors sometimes attempt « operations » without having blood in stock, reveals Dr. Guerrier Berthony, head of the gynecology department at the facility, to AyiboPost.

On Thursday, February 22, 2024, the head of the National Transfusion Security Program announced a production problem due to a lack of materials and reagents.

This problem persists as St. Boniface experiences an unusual influx of patients, according to Dr. Berthony.

The State University Hospital of Haiti (HUEH), the largest hospital in the country, is currently out of service, according to statements from its director, Jude Milcé, to AyiboPost.

Oxygen supply companies in Haiti are also trapped by gang clashes, greatly affecting their production capacity.

« We are having difficulty finding raw materials to produce oxygen due to the closure of ports, » explains Bernard Chauvet, CEO of Industrial Dynamics, to AyiboPost.

Depending on demand, the company was producing 400 oxygen cylinders per day. But today, according to Chauvet, the facility neither produces nor sells any cylinders.

In this situation, hospitals must adapt.

La Paix University Hospital uses 100 oxygen cylinders every three days.

Due to the ongoing shortage, « we only use pure oxygen for very severe cases, » says the institution’s general director, Dr. Paul Junior Fontilus.

salle de malade à HUEH

View from inside an abandoned room at the HUEH with patients.

Zanmi Lasante has been operating since 1983, providing care in the poorest and most remote areas of the country through seventeen healthcare facilities.

Struggling to supply inputs and medicines to its network due to gangs occupying national roads, the institution is focusing on air transport, according to its director, Venia Vicieres.

This input crisis highlights a structural problem of doctor emigration, exacerbated in recent years by economic and security crises.

Since the last fiscal year, HUEH has lost 180 staff members.

The hospital had 1,032 employees for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. This figure has dropped to 852, according to data provided to AyiboPost by Ermeline Delva, head of human resources.

Rebecca Gaëtano has been an intern at HUEH for nearly a year.

« As a young doctor, I find this situation difficult, » she tells AyiboPost.

The mental health of the staff is severely tested.

« Sometimes I feel on the brink of burnout, and it affects my performance as a healthcare worker, » says the doctor, who had to leave her family in Gressier in the south of the country due to armed gang violence to live with a relative in Carrefour Feuille.

After gangs invaded the slum in August 2023, Gaëtano relocated to a relative’s home near HUEH.

patients abandonnés HUEH

Patients with nowhere to seek refuge remained at the HUEH, already abandoned due to gang violence in the area.

The institution has a dormitory, but it is « unhealthy. » There is « no running water, not enough beds, and all the needs for a comfortable and suitable facility are not met, » according to Gaëtano.

Studies report that 40% of doctors trained in Haiti leave the country. 13% of them seek refuge in the United States.

According to the World Health Organization in a 2017 report, the country has an average of 5.9 doctors or nurses, and 6.5 healthcare professionals for every 10,000 inhabitants. These figures are far below WHO’s minimum recommendations.

La Paix University Hospital has lost several senior doctors. Most of those still in the country are afraid to go to the hospital.

« Before, we performed ten to fifteen operations per day, » says Dr. Fontilus. « Now we have reduced to five operations per day. »

At St. Damien Hospital, the country’s only pediatric hospital, the number of patients is decreasing due to insecurity problems in the Tabarre area, according to the institution’s communications officer, Hadson Archange Albert.

patients abandonnés HUEH

A corpse abandoned at the State University Hospital of Haiti in early March 2024.

From 2019 to 2023, the service saw respectively 89, 68, 61, 47, and 42 cases.

Fontaine Hospital in Cité Soleil — whose area was invaded by bandits in November 2023 — is understaffed. Eight out of fourteen doctors have left the country through the humanitarian parole program, according to its director, Jose Ulysse, who adds that the center is caring for about ten babies abandoned by their parents.

In a note published on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, the Association of Private Hospitals of Haiti (AHPH) issued an SOS regarding the critical state of hospital centers.
« The widespread insecurity prevailing in the country has seriously hindered our operations, » the note reads. « Our medical staff is experiencing enormous difficulties in moving around safely, thus jeopardizing the continuity of care. »
Note Association Hôpitaux Privés Haïti

Note from the Association of Private Hospitals of Haiti (AHPH) on the deterioration of the country’s situation affecting healthcare centers.

According to the AHPH, many hospitals have been victims of violent attacks and vandalism, and « we are facing severe shortages of essential medical supplies, fuel, and oxygen, which seriously compromises our ability to meet the urgent medical needs of our patients. »

By Fenel Pélissier, Lucnise Duquereste and Widlore Mérancourt

Cover image : The doors of the country’s largest hospital center (HUEH) are closed today, according to statements from its director, Jude Milcé. | © Jean Feguens Regala/AyiboPost

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Fenel Pélissier est avocat au Barreau de Petit-Goâve, professeur de langues vivantes et passionné de littérature.