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Haiti Hospital Workers Say Patients Need Long-Term Care

A quake victim and his mother wait for medical care
A quake victim and his mother wait for medical care

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Mike O'Sullivan

Workers at a Haitian hospital say health care needs have moved beyond emergency medical aid for earthquake victims to long-term help for the injured, including amputees, and psychological counseling. 

At this Catholic pediatric hospital, injured patients are still arriving, adults as well as children.  Most come for follow-up care for injuries suffered in the catastrophic earthquake January 12th. 

Well over 100,000 people were killed, and thousands were buried in mass graves.  Many are still lying beneath the rubble.

Emergency supplies, have poured in from around the world, and in spite of logjams and bottlenecks, aid is reaching this hospital.  Workers unload boxes of medicine from Israel.

Doctors and nurses have come as well, says hospital personnel director Phadou Amisial. "We have doctors from Slovakia, doctors from Germany, doctors from Europe, and we have doctors from the United States also, Canada and so on," he said.

American surgeon Philip Smith came from Chattanooga, Tennessee.  He says most patients are now getting follow-up care and their needs will be long-term. "The infected wounds, the wounds that need to be covered somehow, an amputation stump that continues to need additional work.  So while the most devastating injuries were initially (treated), they're not something you can treat in one week and be done with," he said.

Patients are treated for other ailments, from influenza to appendicitis, as would have been the case without the quake.

Many young patients are traumatized, including a young boy whose leg was partially amputated after it was injured and became infected.

The hospital staff are also coping with raw emotions.   A hospital nursing supervisor watched as her husband struggled for hours to pull their three children from their collapsed house.  All of the children survived, but she is shaken by the widespread destruction and loss of life. "It was very shocking.  There were some of our hospital workers who died.  People in the street died.  Our family members died.  It was really hard," she said.

Hospital personnel director Phadou Amisial says the need is tremendous, and that patients here today will need help for months to come, including rehabilitation and counseling. "They come here.  We do amputations, we do this, we do that.  We try to save lives, but what happens in the future," he said.

He said Haiti needs help to build its medical infrastructure to meet the long-term needs of its people.  He hopes the international community, so active in the earthquake relief effort, will remember that.
 

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