Haiti: Operating Theaters Still Busy, But Nature of Injuries Starting to Change

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Haiti 2010 © Bruno Stevens/Cosmos

Though MSF teams are seeing fewer injuries directly related to the earthquake, the medical needs remain immense.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operating theaters and emergency wards in Haiti are still busy. The two teams in Leogane, for instance, are carrying out an average of 30 operations each day, as are the teams at the new hospital in Carrefour. The inflatable hospital in St Louis is still seeing new cases of compound fractures, as are the surgeons working in Choscal, who’ve been receiving victims of shooting and car accidents as well.

The nature of the injuries and conditions in Haiti is gradually changing, however. Fewer people are appearing with wounds directly caused by the earthquake. These days, the indirect consequences on people's health are far more evident. More children are suffering from diarrhea, for instance, and more people are exhibiting symptoms of mental trauma. There have also been a few cases of tetanus, a very dangerous illness.

The pressing need for post-operative care and space in which to provide it has driven a number of developments. A new 100-bed facility in Delmas 30 will start taking in patients this week. There are another 60 beds ready under a canvas roof in Bicentaire, and more in Port-au-Prince’s Lycee site, which opens today. MSF is also reaching out to people who had injuries treated elsewhere, at facilities not run by MSF, to inform them that longer-term care is available.

In the capital, MSF mobile clinics are seeing up to 140 people per day. Each team includes a mental health specialist as well, someone who can begin to address the psychological impact this massive trauma has had. Similar efforts are underway in the towns of Dufour, Darbon, and Leogane, where approximately 20 percent of patient consultations involve mental health issues.

MSF staff has seen some children who need therapeutic feeding, although it is not yet clear if these indicate more widespread nutritional problems. The work with water and sanitation is also expanding. In a number of places where MSF has medical facilities, it is aiding local communities with these vital services. In the Grace International camp, for example, MSF is providing water for 15,000 people. In the towns of Jacmel and Leogane, and at the hospital at St. Louis, MSF has established latrines, showers and water supplies, while also looking into the possibilities of doing likewise for smaller encampments along the roads outside the town.