Via his Dispatches from Haiti blog in the Peoria Journal Star, Dr. John Carroll wrties: Haiti’s Public Hospitals On Strike. Excerpt from a horrifying post:
During the past three decades, when I visited the General Hospital I spent most of my time in the Pediatric Ward. Pediatrics was located in a building constructed in the mid-1940’s with the help of the American Red Cross. However, the earthquake in Haiti fissured this building to the point where it was not safe and the patients were moved to a large tent just down the street on the General Hospital campus. The old Pediatric building was later demolished.
While it was standing the Pediatric Ward accepted hundreds of thousands of children for care. Many baby’s lives were saved in the structure but many were unnecessarily lost as well. Their mothers tended to their children’s hygienic needs and made sure their sheets were washed. Since there is no food service in the Hospital parents were responsible for bringing in food for their children. Mothers and other family members slept on the floor beneath the baby’s cribs.
When babies were prescribed IV’s their families were responsible for buying the IV catheters and fluids. If they had no money, they borrowed it. A Haitian physician friend told me that the night Baby Doc Duvalier got married in the mid 80’s he was on call in Pediatrics at the General Hospital. Baby Doc’s wedding was just several miles away and held in a very lavish setting replete with women in fur coats and many many bottles of champagne. During that single night my Haitian friend pronounced eight babies dead of dehydration….all preventable deaths in his opinion.
The Pediatric building also had a room for abandoned children who were found on the streets. Many of the children were handicapped in one form or another. Staffing in this room was minimal. On morning rounds it was not uncommon to find a baby who was dead in his crib.
Haitian pediatricians led me to the cribs and bedsides of many children suffering from congenital and rheumatic heart disease. Haitian Hearts was able to transport some of them to the States for heart surgery.
Over the years the employees of Haiti’s public hospitals have gone on strike a number of times. It is usually due to the fact that they have not received their salaries for many months from the Haitian government. And for Haiti’s poor the strikes are frequently a death sentence when they become ill.
I sadly remember a few years ago during a Hospital strike that employees of the maintenance department lined the sidewalk outside of the hospital in a public display with the bodies of babies who perished to let people know of the catastrophe occurring inside.
During the last several months, employees of the General Hospital and four other public hospitals in Haiti have been on strike again. These hospitals are largely run by young resident physicians. These physicians are demonstrating against the poor sanitary conditions and lack of medical supplies in these hospitals.
They are also striking because their salaries are so low. After six years of higher education, interns make less than half the minimum wage, which is set by law at $3.80 US for an eight-hour workday. Residents physician in hospitals receive the equivalent of $123 per month. The medical staff is earning less than Haiti’s textile workers who sew T-shirts for Hanes.