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St. Nicholas Hospital

September 17, 2011

A few weeks ago I wrote the post Nothing Happens by Chance (August 23rd).  Today God was at work in my life to provide another amazing experience that has me thinking.   I know I will never be able to forget what I saw.  We currently have a dental/medical team in from Wisconsin taking care of our needs and those of our workers and their extended families.  This morning they were going to visit St. Nicolas Hospital in Saint Marc, and asked if I wanted to come along.  I had never been there and welcomed the opportunity.

Our first stop was in pediatrics.  We were greeted by Chris Carpenter, a young doctor from California who rotates six months in Boston and six months in Saint Marc.  After brief introductions a nurse arrived with a newborn whose heart had developed outside of her chest.  All the doctor could do was to irrigate the heart and wait for the child to live out her brief life on a table in the hallway.  We asked about another baby on the same table and were told she was premature, born to a mother suffering from malnutrition and HIV.  One of the ladies asked how much the tiny baby weighed and the doctor said he would estimate two kilos, but as the ward had no scale he couldn’t be sure.  In Canada or the US this baby would have a good chance of survival; in Haiti she will have almost none.

Chris warned us they had several active TB cases, but since there was no isolation ward these patients were in with all the others.  He was the only doctor on the unit and he had only two nurses working with him in addition to his wife who has no medical training.   I talked to him at some length about the conditions at the hospital and the needs he saw.  I knew about the realities of healthcare here but to come face to face with them was a truly sobering experience.

We visited some of the children and their parents in the ward, the ladies distributing the gifts they had brought and praying for the children.  The rooms were crowded and by North American standards far from clean.  We made additional stops in the surgical ward and internal medicine.  Again the rooms had many occupants and things were far from hospital clean.

On the way back to Pierre Payen we talked about how clinics set up by Americans and Canadians are well equipped, but Haitian public hospitals are critically understaffed and don’t even have the basics with which to care for their patients.  I couldn’t help wondering how Chris deals with seeing people die when he knows he has the ability to save them if only he had what he needed to do that.

I am angry.  I am angry at a world that allows this to happen.  I know some would ask how God could allow this to happen.  I do not.  It is because He allowed us free will.  God is not the responsible party here.  We are.

By giving humans freedom of will, the Creator has chosen to limit his own power. He risked the daring experiment of giving us the freedom to make good or bad decisions, to live decent or evil lives, because God does not want the forced obedience of slaves. Instead, he covets the voluntary love and obedience of sons who love him for himself.

Catherine Marshall, Beyond Our Selves

Some facts about Haitian healthcare:

  • Only 24% of births in Haiti are attended by skilled health personnel.  Infant mortality is 58.0/1000 live births (Canada 4.99/1000).  For every 100,000 births, 523 women died in Haiti, compared to less than 5 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births in Canada.
  • 1 in 10 children dies before age 5; malnutrition is the leading cause of child mortality, contributing to 60% of all child deaths.  One third of 1 year olds show signs of severe growth retardation; 40% of all 5 year olds have stunted growth and brain development.
  • 46% of Haitians (58% of children) are undernourished.
  • Haiti has 120,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, 2.2% of the population, the highest rate in the Western Hemisphere; 7100 people died from AIDS in 2009.
  • Only 43 % of the target population receives the recommended immunizations and just 40% of the population has access to basic health care.
  • There are 25 physicians and 11 nurses per 100,000 population.  Canada has 191 physicians and 789 RNs, over 200 LPNs and more than 50 RPNs per 100,000.
  • Haiti’s total annual expenditure on health per person is $96.  Canada spends $5614.
  • Healthy life expectancy is about 50 years, with a life expectancy of less than 61 years.  In 2010 this statistic was drastically downgraded.  (For Canada the statistics are more than 70/81.6 years).
One Comment leave one →
  1. meaghan permalink
    September 17, 2011 5:47 pm

    Reading this made me cry for so many reasons, the thought of those babies, never being able to live a happy long life, the thought that we take our medical system for granted and compalin about hallway medical treatment and wait times. It also made me cry because it makes me realize how greatful and luck Mark and I are to have these two amazing, healthy and beautiful girls!

    Love you lots Dad!

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