Inside the sprawling HUEH complex, a pile of concrete aggregate for new construction is in the foreground, a razor-wire fence blocking the remnants of a devastated hospital building in the background, while patients and medical professionals walk by.
Veve of Gran Bwa:
Gran Bwa, usually depicted as half-man, half-tree, is the Vodou loa of forests and thus of plants, trees and herbalism, and this is why he is also considered the loa of healing, which is often accomplished through herbalism in Haiti. He also, somewhat like the Egyptian deity Thoth (Hermes Trismegistus in Greek) is the keeper of the hidden knowledge of magic. His Haitian Catholic Saint counterpart is Saint Sebastian, who was tied to a tree before being martyred with arrows.
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The great earthquake of January 12th all but wiped out or shut down the private hospitals in Port-au-Prince, but State-run HUEH, which itself suffered considerable damage, still managed to keep functioning as masses of injured Haitians began pouring in. Tents had to be erected to substitute for departments destroyed or condemned, and an influx of foreign medical teams also helped stabilize the situation. This was a Godsend, with some caveats, while HUEH was still reeling from the collapse of the nursing school with a hundred students and teachers inside, the collapse of the pediatrics building and the offices of the health ministry, with damage to many other departments as well. Moreover, HUEH's regular emergency room was too small, damaged and ill-equipped to deal with the huge influx of critically wounded Haitians, necessitating setting up field tents on the campus.
Various NGOs, some already with a presence in Haiti, also got involved in the emergency medical relief efforts, for example, Partners in Health. To quote from their website:
Immediately after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th, 2010, Partners in Health established a Stand With Haiti campaign, raising funds and recruiting qualified medical personnel to serve relief efforts in the disaster zone. On January 16 the PIH/Zanmi Lasante team was designated by the World Health Organization to serve alongside Haitian Ministry of Health as coordinators of the public University Hospital (HUEH) in Port-au-Prince, supporting the administration and staff in restoring services at the city's central hospital.
The influx of foreign medical volunteers and organizations, usually with much better high-tech equipment, medicines and rapid-response capabilities in triage and catastrophic emergency care, created new problems by often squeezing out, when not offending, Haitian medical professionals from their daily operations, leading to a loss of valuable indigenous Haitian medical personnel during the most traumatic period of the earthquake rescue efforts. My partner Georgianne wrote extensively about this and other fallout from NGO presence in Haiti in her OpEdNews article, How Foreign Aid Is Ruining Haiti's Health Care System
But on the other hand, HUEH personnel, reflecting upon all the advanced technology and methodology that outside medical teams and organizations brought with them, also saw how much they needed to modernize the hospital. We spoke at length to both the hospital director, Dr. Alix Lassegue, and to Dr. Louis-Franck Telemaque, head of surgery at HUEH, and they both volunteered how much they needed to not merely rebuild, but upgrade their hospital complex. Plans and efforts are now underway to do so, but of course much money is needed, not to mention much freedom from negative NGO and disaster capitalism political influences as well.
Here, then, is my tour for you, the reader, of the sprawling, crowded campus of the HÃ´pital Universitaire de l'Ãtat d'HaÃ¯ti as it was in mid-May, operating on a show-string budget, attempting to clear rubble and begin rebuilding while treating Haitians in every innovative, make-do way they can conjure up under incredibly challenging circumstances:
Walking through the crowded streets of HUEH
Meet head-honcho Dr. Alix Lassegue, a pleasant man who answered our questions about the hospital and then took us on his cook's tour of the campus.
The door to HUEH's main surgical operating room
Only two operating tables were functional, the original surgery wing being heavily damaged. Heavy traffic ER operations ended up in tents outside to keep pace with the thousands of injured.
Volunteers are helping by serving lunch trays to patients in surrounding tents.
Inside one emergency services tent
The orthopedic trauma department