Partners in Health is building a state-of-the-art teaching medical facility in Mirebalais in Haiti’s underserved Central Plateau.
My niece Annie helped design the waste and water treatment systems of the project as part of her engineering internship with Northeastern University, and will be joining the Partners in Health group upon graduation. It’s so inspiring to see this wonderful project coming to fruition and to know that she’ll be part of it.
There are several stages in becoming an empowered, engaged, activated patient — a capable, responsible partner in getting good care for yourself, your family, whoever you’re caring for. One ingredient is to know what to expect, so you can tell when things seem right and when they don’t.
“Errors are everywhere.” “Great care in a high-risk environment.” What kind of attitude is that? It’s accurate.
This work began after the death of Boston Globe health columnist Betsy Lehman. Long-time Bostonians will recall that she was killed in 1994 by an accidental overdose of chemo at Dana-Farber. It shocked us to realize that a savvy patient like her, in one of the best places in the world, could be killed by such an accident. But she was.
Five years later the Institute of Medicine’s report “To Err is Human” documented that such errors are in fact common — 44,000 to 98,000 a year. It hasn’t gotten better: Last November the U.S. Inspector General released new findings that 15,000 Medicare patients are killed in U.S. hospitals every month. That’s one every three minutes. Read more »
Seven days ago, at a mission in the north of Haiti, I watched a nurse remove oxygen from a premature baby boy in order to give it to a woman in labor. The heartbeat of the baby who was about to be delivered had dropped dangerously low and there was only one working oxygen machine.
Perhaps the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck or there was some other problem. A Caesarian section — which can quickly and safely deliver a baby who is in trouble — was not an option. The public hospital was at least an hour’s drive away over bumpy roads.
These kinds of cruel triage decisions are commonplace in Haiti and existed long before the earthquake struck on January 12th. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has never had an effective public health system. Thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — by some counts more than 10,000 — are trying to plug holes in the ship. What’s really needed is a new ship. Read more »
Dr. Paul Auerbach is the author of the definitive textbook on Wilderness Medicine. Though he’s spent his entire emergency medicine career teaching others how to survive in the wild, even that didn’t fully prepare him for the extraordinary devastation in Haiti. He’d never seen anything like it. He hopes he never does again.
In an exclusive Skype interview with Better Health, Paul describes what it was like “on the ground” during the first week of the disaster. He goes on to explain (in part 2 below) what the current critical needs are, and which organizations and websites volunteers should go to in order to contribute in a coordinated fashion.
Dr. Val: Do you need supplies?
Dr. Auerbach: We have lots of medications, vaccines, and small supplies. What we need most is a large autoclave to sterilize used OR equipment. Read more »
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