Haiti: Attacks on medical staff leave many people without health care

MSF's Turgeau emergency center

Haiti 2021 © Pierre Fromentin/MSF

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 22, 2022—Kidnappings for ransom that target many residents of Port-au-Prince, including medical personnel, are making it increasingly difficult for the population to access health care, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

At least four hospitals in Port-au-Prince have been temporarily closed as staff go on strike in solidarity with kidnapped colleagues. Many patients are therefore turning to the emergency center that MSF runs in Port-au-Prince’s Turgeau neighborhood, which is becoming increasingly congested and is facing great difficulties in referring patients elsewhere for further treatment.

Following the kidnapping of Dr. Jacques Pierre Pierre, the medical director of the Haitian State University Hospital on May 17, the hospital staff went on strike. Similarly, medical activities have been suspended in St-Luc and St-Damien hospitals after Dr. Benetty Augustin, a pediatrician specializing in the care of epileptic children, was kidnapped on May 5 as she went to work.

"We are very concerned about the unacceptable situation of insecurity affecting our colleagues in Haiti’s medical community," said Dr. Samson Frandy, medical manager of MSF’s Turgeau emergency center. "The effects on the already weak health system are enormous, and this situation is putting a pressure on our center which is hard to bear."

On Friday morning, the rush of patients at the Turgeau center was such that an additional hospital floor had to be quickly set up to increase its capacity. Most patients were children who have nowhere else to receive medical care.

These events compound an already difficult situation in a country where access to health care is difficult for most of the population.

"We support the decision of our colleagues to suspend their services and we express our deepest solidarity with them," Dr. Samson said. "We are doing our best to provide emergency care, but soon we won't know where to refer the patients requiring further treatment. If health professionals continue to be attacked and targeted, Haiti’s health system may no longer be able to cope with the needs."