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May 1, 2019

Celebrating Six Years of Accomplishments!

Photo by Cecille Joan Avila
Photo by Cecille Joan Avila

Six years have passed since University Hospital in Mirebalais opened its doors and began transforming health care for more than one million people across Haiti's Central Plateau. Since March 2013, thousands of patients have had access to specialized care provided by clinicians working with Zanmi Lasante, as Partners In Health is known locally.

University Hospital has also been home to a growing medical education program, which has graduated 89 residents from a variety of specialties, including emergency medicine, surgery, and pediatrics, to add to the growing health care workforce in Haiti.

In the pre-dawn hours, dozens of patients begin arriving at University Hospital’s main entrance to await their turn for high-quality care, at little or no cost. Last year, clinicians conducted nearly 277,000 outpatient visits and admitted close to 6,000 patients, many of whom had traveled hours to be seen by the facility’s top-notch doctors and nurses.

Once patients have registered and had their vitals taken, they sit in one of several waiting rooms for their name to be called. They come for consultations with maternal and mental health, dental services and radiology, oncology and chronic diseases. Those who are admitted may end up in a number of departments, such as labor and delivery, pediatrics, or isolation—should they be diagnosed with an infectious disease, such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

Regardless of why they come, they will receive care within specialties that would otherwise be out of reach for the rural poor across Haiti.

Here is what we have been up to at University Hospital in Haiti:

Over the past six years, Partner’s In Health has worked tirelessly to make University Hospital a beacon of hope in Haiti. For example, University Hospital is home to six state-of-the-art operating rooms, tucked away in the heart of the facility. In 2018 alone, surgeons performed 1,400 lifesaving cesarean sections and 800 other women's health-related procedures, such as hysterectomies.

The operating theater hosts routine surgeries, such as appendectomies and the removal of tumors. It has also hosted teams of international surgeons who, in collaboration with PIH clinicians, have conducted cleft palate repairs and—most impressive of all—the separation of conjoined twins.

So far, 19 surgical residents have entered University Hospital’s medical education program, four of whom formed the first graduating class last fall.

In 2018, Kay Manmito (PIH’s maternal waiting room) housed more than 400 women so that they could receive the lifesaving, dignified care they needed, from blood pressure monitoring to C-sections. These patients were among the 12 women, on average, who delivered each day in the neighboring hospital’s maternity ward. For expectant mothers like Natacha, whose risky pregnancy brought her to the facility, “the care found here is priceless.”

Partner’s In Health has also provided cancer treatment to more than 570 Patients and much more. 

Jan 28, 2019

PIH Haiti Earthquake Recovery Update

Thank you for your generous support of Partners In Health / Zanmi Lasante! Each and every day our work to provide high quality health care in Haiti continues. We’re pleased to share with you a personal story by a Partners In Health Staff member from Haiti, where PIH staff helps starving kids get back to health. An excerpt is below; please check out the full story here.

 

On January 12, 2010, I was in the middle of my afternoon workout at an underground gym in Petion-ville, a neighborhood within Port-au-Prince, when the ground suddenly started shaking. I was underwhelmed at first. As the shaking grew stronger, I remember feeling a loss of control I had never experienced before, not only of my body but also of my surroundings, as though the world around me was crumbling. My first instinct was to make my way outside. I barely made it to the parking lot when a cloud of darkness and cement dust swallowed everything in front of me. A four-story supermarket had collapsed nearby. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear people screaming, “Letènel, Oh Letènel!” (Haitian Creole for “God”), but also singing prayers. Somehow it was reassuring; it meant the world had not ended.

 

That night, my family and I gathered on the cracked asphalt just outside my driveway, sitting and holding hands anxiously as the aftershocks came one after the other. I felt guilty for being alive while so many had perished in vain. My helplessness vis-à-vis this tragedy only fueled my anger as I grew impatient for the opportunity to provide a helping hand.

 

The following morning, my brother and I filled my old pick-up truck with water bottles and headed downtown, the hardest hit area, to see if we could help. What we thought would be a simple distribution of clean water turned out to be a surprising medical adventure we will never forget.

 

We encountered such an overwhelming number of severely injured people, from pregnant women to small infants, that our truck quickly filled after a few minutes on the road. They told us they had been denied access by local clinics, but we decided to bring them back anyway. We found a Doctors Without Borders clinic up the road, where a group of people was banging on the locked gates. My brother and I introduced ourselves as volunteers and urged the guards to open the gates. They must have thought we were foreigners, perhaps because of our light skin, and allowed us entry.

 

To this day, I cannot find words to describe what we saw as we walked through the giant gates. There were hundreds of trauma patients lying next to each other on the parking lot because beds were full inside. They screamed relentlessly in agonizing pain, while unsanitary pieces of clothing covered their open wounds. As we walked in, we realized it was impossible to not accidentally step on someone, whose desperate family members begged us for help.

 

For the next 72 hours, we became part of a makeshift staff of volunteers, supervised by one foreign doctor and two Haitian nurses. While we had no formal medical training, we were able to triage and identify the critically injured, bandage them, and provide them with pre-operative care before they were sent to a surgical facility. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our trauma cases did not make it that far; they ended up succumbing to their injuries.

 

Now, nine years later, some hard-hit sites in Port-au-Prince have changed dramatically, and most lots are cleared of rubble and tents. Some places have seen more progress than others, but one thing is clear: Haiti still has far to go before it can say it has been “built back better.” Efforts to decentralize resources from the capital city, such as the construction of PIH’s University Hospital in Mirebalais in the Central Plateau, provide a source of hope.

Oct 31, 2018

Breast Cancer Survivors Share Their Stories

Thank you very much for continuous support of Partners In Health’s long-term work in Haiti.  We are very grateful of your partnership in our efforts to create a robust healthcare system in Haiti. All our progress has been made possible because of donors like yourself.  In solidarity with breast cancer awareness month, below is news of our progress in battling breast cancer in Haiti.

 

Five days a week at University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, dozens of patients flow through the oncology ward for doctors’ visits, chemotherapy, and consultations with the team’s social worker or psychologist. The vast majority are women, and many—450 in 2018 alone—are in various stages of battling breast cancer.

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, staff at Zanmi Lasante, as Partners In Health is known in Haiti, asked survivors to share their journeys with cancer. Some of the women started receiving care in Cange; others first went to University Hospital, which opened in March 2013 and is still the only facility in Haiti that provides free cancer care and psychosocial support. Each woman comes with a different perspective and background, but all share the scars of the same disease.

 

Here are their stories:

 

The lump in Laurie's breast never hurt, so it was easier to push its existence out of her mind. But one day, she noticed the lump had become much harder, and her concern grew. In 2011, she visited a doctor in Léogâne, near her home in southern Haiti. A biopsy revealed she had breast cancer, and her doctor recommended she visit the PIH-supported hospital in Cange.

Laurie was still scared and in shock by the diagnosis when she arrived. But PIH staff and clinicians “explained everything to me, provided me with information, and eased my mind,” she says. She underwent a series of chemotherapy treatments to shrink the mass, then had her first surgery in 2014.

Despite taking tamoxifen to prevent a recurrence, Laurie found another lump and has had two more surgeries since 2016—all while under PIH’s careful watch. She continues to travel to the hospital regularly for follow-up care.

“By the grace of God,” she says, “I feel good these days.”

Cita is a single mother of seven who has seen a lot in her 49 years. When she found a lump in her breast, it was one of several worries was juggling at the time, including occasional homelessness. She visited doctor after doctor and got no relief, just more bills.

Then, one day, someone told her about University Hospital, where cancer care was free. She visited shortly after it opened and met Dr. Damuse. After a biopsy and several exams, Damuse informed Cherie that she had an advanced stage of breast cancer. The doctor didn’t recommend surgery, but advised her to start palliative chemotherapy, which could prolong her life.

Five years later, Cita rarely misses her chemotherapy appointments. Damuse has shifted her to different lines of palliative treatment over that time, with occasional recovery breaks in between. Inevitably, she arrives with a huge smile, and is always in good spirits.

“If it were not for the Mirebalais hospital, I would not be alive today,” Cita says. “I get all my medication for free, and when I come to the hospital, the doctors take really good care of me. They welcome me and they really value me.”

Adriana  had a similar reaction to many women when they first learn that the lump in their breast is cancer. She was terrified and prayed that she would stay alive, for her family’s sake.

“I have six children,” Adriana says, adding that there are four boys and two girls. “My last one was in sixth grade, and I was worried that I would not be able to help him advance in school.”

The hospital she visited in Tabarre, not far from her home on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, referred her to another facility for surgery. But she knew she couldn’t afford the procedure. A friend recommended she visit the PIH-supported hospital in Cange, where she could get free care.

Following her advice, Adriana  traveled to Cange in 2010 and got the surgery she needed. But her cancer was persistent, and tumors reemerged. In 2012, she underwent a mastectomy, recovered from surgery, and began taking tamoxifen to prevent a recurrence. She remains in follow-up care at University Hospital.

 “I used to say: ‘As long as the girls are young, I would not want to die before they get married,’” Jean, now 62, remembers. “Today they are older, and if I die now, I am relieved that I would not leave young children behind.”

Philomena, 77, had a long journey to get the care she needed after discovering a mass in her breast more than eight years ago. It took a while, but she eventually got an appointment at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, where a clinician took a biopsy and sent the breast tissue away for testing. Months passed before she got results. When she learned she had cancer and would need surgery, she felt a pang of despair.

“I told Jesus I did not understand what was happening,” she remembers.

Again, Philomena  waited months for her next appointment at General Hospital, while the mass grew and formed a painful abscess that eventually burst. Desperate for help, she followed another doctor’s recommendation and turned to the PIH-supported hospital in Cange.

There she met Dr. Damuse, who wasted no time. Moise had her first appointment in February 2010, and by April, she was scheduled for surgery to remove the mass. She began chemotherapy in Cange and continued her care at University Hospital in Mirebalais. She has been in follow-up care ever since.

 
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