Haiti, May 2011:
One of the many features missing from daily life in the Northeast of Haiti is a viable medical first response service. If you are sick or injured, you typically flag down a tap-tap–basically a flatbed truck with benches on either side–to take you to a hospital or clinic that might be miles away. Of course, this is predicated on one’s ability to pay.
Stories abound of injured people being returned to the scene of an accident because they could not pay their cab fare. Assuming one makes it to the hospital in a timely manner, there is no guarantee that specialty services necessary for treatment will be available. They may exist at another hospital miles away, but there is very little communication and awareness of these inter-agency capabilities, and so they often go unused. Such are the conditions in rural Haiti today.
To address these problems EMEDEX in conjunction with Bethlehem ministries hosted a two-day conference at Clinique Esperance et Vie in Terrier Rouge for healthcare representatives from Haiti’s north and northeast regions. Forty representatives from various organizations and health entities including Dr. Jean Denis Pierre, Director of the Northeast Department of Health, attended the conference to organize a regional network for the provision of healthcare in the north and the northeast. This conference was the first meeting of its kind in the area.
Members identified challenges and recommendations for three primary areas of focus for improving the provision of healthcare in the region: regional communication and networking; emergency response education; and an affordable and effective emergency first response transportation system. A multidisciplinary task force was created known as Le Comite Regional de Collaboration de Services Sanitaires – a group comprised of the different conference participants and the Northeast regional Ministry of Health (Dr. Jean Denis Pierre) that is focused on improving the provision of healthcare in the region. The committee will meet regularly to work towards solutions for the three areas identified.
The committee has been asked to put together a similar presentation specifically for the Northeast Ministry of Health that will involve more stakeholders and potential sponsors to help develop a regional health care system. We are in the process of setting a date for the next meeting.
It was also agreed that there exist real barriers, both financial and otherwise, to immediately implementing a fully functional modern ambulance service with dedicated and fully equipped vehicles. More urgently, it was decided to train the de facto ambulance workers of the region–the tap tap drivers. This has been done before in West Africa, where truck drivers were trained and eventually transitioned to the role of local ambulance service, and it was felt that we could do the same in rural Haiti.