The hospital in Jeremie is far from any standards that we are familiar with, yet this is one of the main health care facilities in the area and the place to be if you need medical attention.
Our breast health team was invited to work in their local hospital for a few days. The idea of having an American group working there was a first for this organization, and we definitely feel a sense of gratefulness for the opportunity.
Hospitals in Haiti
There is no HIPAA, no OSHA, and no Joint Commission organization as we know them. There are a few physicians on site every day and a few trained nurses working in this government-run hospital. The nurses wear very pristine white dresses, white stockings and nursing caps. The patient rooms are actually large wards with several beds per room. I refer to the hospital as an open-air facility. There are no main, large front doors to enter through. Rather there are roofed, open air hallways with rooms off of each hall. Some rooms have doors and some do not. The wards that I saw did not have doors and some rooms were very dark with no lights.
If a patient wants food or bedding, this needs to be provided by the patient or their family. If a patient needs direct care, this, too, needs to be provided by the family. I would see the same family members each day at a patient’s bedside or in the hall outside of wards.
We visited the maternity ward and pediatrics, as well as their emergency department that has a few carts for patients to lie on, in the same room, as they wait for attention.
Electricity and Medicine
Our work area included one room partitioned for patients to register, another for their ultrasound and a third section for consultations. We had a second area in a surgery room to perform any needed biopsies. The hospital administration wanted to please us and installed new lights and an air conditioner in this surgery room. The idea of even having electricity to run our ultrasound machine and lights was an unusual feature for the hospital. As we were waiting for the city to turn on the electricity for this room, one nurse asked if we always have electricity turned on in America. We were reminded again of how fortunate we are to have the working environments that we do.
The nurses and physicians were curious and watched us closely. As time progressed, they seemed to warm up with smiles and questions. Our two wonderful interpreters helped us all find common ground to enhance communication. The administrators were very interested in hearing about our work and wanted a report mid-week and again at the end of the week.
One of their first questions was if we would come back, to which we said, “We hope so!”
One of the most touching sights was a hand drawn photo of Jesus watching over the world as we entered the surgery room. This reminded me of who really is in control.