The Miller School’s Hospital in Haiti Welcomes New Medical Volunteers

With urgent medical evacuations of earthquake survivors to the U.S. now preceding smoothly, the new volunteer staff at the Miller School’s hospital in Haiti had a chance today to orient themselves to their new surroundings and the needs of their patients.

With the recent onset of five-day deployments to the hospital, almost the entire staff turned over, bringing in fresh energy but underscoring the need for more permanent administrators who can ensure continuity in day-to-day operations. As Barth Green, M.D., professor and chair of neurological surgery, has frequently noted, “We need people who can stay here for months, not days or a week.”

Members of the UM Global Institute’s Haiti Relief Task Force, the tireless cadre of doctors, administrators, staff and volunteers who are working non-stop to coordinate the massive medical mission that Green initiated a day after the 7.0 earthquake left Haiti in ruins, said they are looking to fill more permanent positions.

Among the new volunteers who began arriving Monday are 35 nurses who are needed to staff the 240-bed hospital the University opened at the edge of the Port-au-Prince airport on Jan. 21. Officially dedicated on Saturday, the four-tent compound, with its four operating rooms and skilled medical staff of volunteers from UM and beyond, has become a beacon of hope for the country’s critically injured residents.

Still, dozens of the most severely injured survivors need more advanced care and were being flown to South Florida – until the U.S. government halted the flights last week. The flights resumed Monday, relieving some of the stress at the hospital, which has become a way station and clearinghouse for the medical evacuees.

Though security at the hospital compound remains an issue, new volunteers are beginning to find growing signs of order and routine amid the chaos that accompanies all large-scale disasters. For example, doctors, nurses, patients, their families and other volunteers are now receiving three hot meals a day, thanks to local vendors who deliver breakfast, lunch and dinner to the camp. That’s a noticeable improvement over the power bars, peanut butter and crackers the first waves of volunteers subsisted on. Still, they should still expect cold showers and other camp-like conditions.

In addition to health care professionals, raising money for the Global Institute to support the University’s doctors, nurses and students in Haiti remains a priority. You may make an online donation directly to the Global Institute or send a check made out to the “University of Miami-Global Institute” to P.O. Box 248073, Coral Gables, Florida, 33124.

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