Project Medishare prepares opening of new maternal health center (re-post)

Project Medishare for Haiti is a nonprofit based in Florida that was founded in 1994 by Dr. Barth Green and Arthur Fournier. The organization is dedicated to sharing its human and technical resources with its Haitian partners in the quest to achieve quality healthcare and development services for all. As you can imagine, their mission has become ever more vital since the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010.

To support Project Medishare’s opening of a new maternal clinic in the Central Plateau, MedShare recently donated equpiment. Medishare’s Jennifer Browning wrote a great post detailing the project on their blog, and I wanted to share it here:

Project Medishare prepares opening of new maternal health center

By Jennifer Browning

Dr. Gerarde Mondesir conducts a prenatal exam for 24-year-old Jesula Alexander at the clinic in Marmont. Upon opening, the maternal health center will provide women in the Central Plateau a full package of women’s health services including reproductive health education, family planning, along with HIV/AIDS counseling and testing. "I am so happy about the maternal health center opening," Alexander said. "I hope it is ready by the time I have my baby so that I don’t have to travel far to have my baby and receive healthcare. I can have my baby here." Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Jean Vasula, 17, sits with her 2-month-old son Maté at the clinic in Marmont waiting to see the doctor. Here doctors see everything from pediatrics to adult medicine and for now, even provides family planning as well as prenatal and postnatal exams.

Thanks to the Greig Family, who completely funded the construction of the Maternal Health Center, and MedShare who donated all of the medical equipment, women in the Central Plateau are closer to having access to a full package of women’s health services including reproductive health education, family planning, along with HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.

A grant provided by Ralph Lauren is assisting with upstart costs such as staff salaries. Currently, Project Medishare is recruiting and interviewing midwives, nurses and other personnel for the center.

Vasula said while she was pregnant with Maté, she visited the Marmont clinic each month for her prenatal care. She said she is excited that there will be a clinic dedicated to women.

“The new maternal health clinic will be so good for [women in the community],” Vasula said. “Right now, here in Marmont we have to depend on the hospital in Thomonde. If we need a test, we have to go to Thomonde; or if we have any complications we have to go to Thomonde or maybe even further in Hinche. I am glad the maternal center is opening here because it will serve the whole community and all women here will have access.”

In Haiti, and particularly in the Central Plateau, the high rate of maternal mortality remains a challenge. Haiti’s statistics regarding maternal mortality are among the highest in the Caribbean: 1 out of every 37 female deaths is linked to a high-risk pregnancy.

Haiti’s poor suffers by far the highest maternal mortality ratio in the Western Hemisphere. According to UNICEF, out of 100,000 live births, 670 Haitian women died of pregnancy-related causes in 2006.

Familiar with complications that can come with childbirth, Vasula hopes by having a maternal center in the community, less women will lose their babies during birth.

“It will help because with me, I had trouble during my pregnancy,” Vasula, who had her baby in Thomonde, said. “If I had my baby at home like many women do here, I would have lost my baby.

Vasula said when she was going into labor with Mate, she was at home with a mid-wife, but there were complications. Her family found a way to get her to Thomonde where she eventually had a C-section. While the maternal health center won’t be performing surgeries like C-sections, the medical staff there will be able to monitor the delivery and send women like Vasula to Thomonde for emergencies.

Gillef Mieloudes, 33, gave birth to her son Yadley at home. She said she was lucky that she didn’t have any complications.

Mieloude who lives in Denizrad situated between Thomonde and Marmont went to Thomonde for her prenatal checkups each month and planned to give birth at home, with the help of a midwife. But by the time the midwife showed up she had already had the baby.

She said she is happy knowing the maternal health center will open soon so that women in her community will have the services they need.

“When the maternal health center opens, if any women have complications with their pregnancy then they will know that there is a place for us to go,” Mieloude said. “Right now women in my community rely on Thomonde for the things that we need when it comes to our health. It will be so nice to have a place that is for women only.

The new maternal health center will be equipped with a full laborator, incubators, examination and observation rooms thanks to a generous equipment donation provided by MedShare. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Jacque Balde, an auxillary nurse for the Ministry of Health at the Marmont Clinic said there is a lot of interest in the maternal health center.

For now women go to the clinic in Marmont to receive women’s health services, and the new maternal health center will allow the Marmont clinic to focus more on pediatric and adult medicine.

“This is important that the people here will have such service, a good service in their home in Marmont,” he said. “When the maternal health center opens it will allow us to organized the Marmont clinic better so we can focus on pediatric and adult medicine.”

Balde is all too aware of complications that can come with childbirth. A few months ago, is wife suffered from eclampsia and gave birth to their son two months early.

“She gave birth at Hinche but there were no incubators,” he said. “They wrapped up our baby and kept him close to my wife, but at seven months you need an incubator. When I saw the incubator at the maternal health center it made me think of my son. If there had been an incubator at Hinche, it could have saved the life of my child.”

As the field coordinator for Marmont, Balde also organizes Project Medishare’s community health agents to go out into the community. As soon as he gets word that the center will open, it will be his job to educate the community health agents to let people know about the maternal health center and about the updated medical equipment available for the women in the community.

Project Medishare internist, Dr. Gerarde Mondesir said a big problem right now is that many of the women come to the Marmont clinic for their prenatal follow-up, but then they will go give birth somewhere else like Thomonde or in Hinche.

“The doctors and midwives there have never seen them before and have no clue about how their pregnancy has been the past nine months,” she said. “I think that it is important to have a maternal health center here, because if we detect a possible problem during their prenatal visit, we will know it and it will be on their file when they come in to give birth. We will be able to follow-up with them better because all of their care is happening in one place.”

Dr. Mondesir said it is also essential that women in Marmont will have a center in their community where they can give birth. She hopes by having the maternal health center, less women will have their babies at home. And she feels this will help decrease the maternal mortality rate in the community of Marmont.

“Sometimes the women live very far and getting them on the road and then all the way to Hinche or all the way to Thomonde is very difficult for them,” Dr. Mondesir said. “When the women realized how long it will take to get to the hospital, they just prefer to stay at home and have the baby there. I think that the maternal health center will also help decrease the maternal mortality rate here in this community. While there will be some mothers who still have their babies at home because they can’t make it here in time, I believe more women will come here knowing that there is a place close and someone here who can help them.”

The maternal health center is scheduled to open this spring.

We are proud to support such a wonderful mission, and look forward to working alongside Project Medishare on other projects in the future. Be sure to visit Project Medishare’s site to learn more about their mission (and support it), and their blog to read the lastest news.

Charity Navigator: Haiti One Year Later

A walker donated by MedShare gives a young Haitian amputee the ability to walk again

Yesterday, January 12th, 2011, marked the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti. To mark the occasion, Charity Navigator, America’s premier independent charity evaluator, created a special section on their website to commemorate the significant outpouring of generosity from donors across America.

MedShare was one of the charities highlighted in the report; below are the questions and answers that appeared highlighting how we’ve served our neighboring country as they continue to recover.

What has your charity done in Haiti?

Thanks to the outpouring of support from donors and volunteers, MedShare has shipped the equivalent of 27 tractor-trailer-sized containers filled with over 154 tons of specifically-requested, life-saving medical supplies and equipment to needy hospitals in Haiti. We have supplied 83 medical mission teams with more than 14,000 pounds of medical supplies for treating the sick and injured in Haiti. We have also sent engineering teams to repair hundreds of pieces of medical equipment damaged by the earthquake and to train technicians from around the country to do the same. More information can be found at www.medshare.org/haiti.

What are the outcomes (immediate results) of your efforts in Haiti?

17 tractor-trailer sized shipments of medical supplies and equipment were sent by MedShare in the first two weeks following the earthquake. An additional 10 containers have been sent to aid in the recovery/rebuilding effort. These supplies and equipment were used by our vetted hospital and in-country charity partners like Partners in Health and Project Medishare to offer free medical services to thousands injured in the earthquake as well as basic services in its aftermath. MedShare’s engineering team travelled to Haiti and fixed hundreds of pieces of damaged equipment and trained technicians throughout the country. Please click on www.medshare.org/haiti for videos chronicling our impact.

Based on your outcomes thus far, has your charity adjusted its course of action to improve the results?

As the relief efforts have moved into a longer term recovery that is not happening as quickly as anyone would want, MedShare has sent teams to Haiti to streamline our already-successful logistics process, conduct a needs assessment at our in-country hospital partners and clinics and expedite customs clearances. The needs for medical supplies and equipment for a longer term recovery differ from those needed in an immediate relief effort. MedShare prides itself on customizing our shipments for the recipient and we take great care to understand their needs with the aim that nothing we sent is diverted or wasted. For more information on our ongoing efforts, click on www.medshare.org/haiti.

Is your charity planning to continue to provide assistance to Haiti in the coming months and years? If so, please explain your plans.

MedShare supported 36 projects in Haiti prior to the earthquake and we plan to continue to work with our in-country hospital and charity partners in the coming months and years. We have developed a good reputation among our partners in Haiti and want to be there for them as long as they need us. Donors can learn more at http://www.medshare.org/haiti. Donors can also click on http://www.medshare.org/shipments where they can view our interactive map of shipments to Haiti over our 11-year history.

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenges facing the people of Haiti in the years to come? Do you have suggestions for how to address these challenges both via your own organization and through the efforts of others?

Haiti has long been the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and faces many challenges. The greatest needs in Haiti are a better resourced and more effective government, a completely rebuilt infrastructure (this was the case before the earthquake), and access to education, healthcare, and basic needs. In short, for Haiti to be successful in the long-term, a context for private investment and industry development must be created as has been done in other developing nations. MedShare can play a strong role in elevating the standards for medical care through the provision of medical supplies and equipment to support the re-building of the healthcare infrastructure.

Have you been able to coordinate and pool your efforts with other organizations?

MedShare is a supply chain organization providing medical supplies and equipment. Thus, we supply other direct-service organizations, hospitals and clinics in Haiti and around the world who offer healthcare to the poor. Some of our partners in Haiti include:

  • Partners In Health
  • St. Damien Pediatric Hospital
  • St. Nicholas Hospital
  • Hopital Bienfaisance de Pignon
  • Port-Au-Prince Triage Hospital
  • CURE Haiti
  • Family Outreach Ministries
  • Archdiocese of Port-Au-Prince
  • Haitian Timoun Foundation
  • CSI Ministries Clinic
  • Hopital Sacre Coeur
  • Grace Children’s Hospital
  • Adventist Hospital
  • Diquini Jimani Hospital (in Dominican Republic on Haitian boarder)
  • St. Francis de Sales Hospital
  • Project Medishare

We’d like to give a special thanks to Charity Navigator for highlighting us. To read their report in it’s entirety, click here.

(Another) Letter from the field: St. Damien Hospital, Haiti

Father Rick Frechette

MedShare supports St. Damien Hospital, the premier pediatric hospital in Haiti that provides all services free of charge.  Currently, the hospital is overwhelmed with cholera cases.

As he did in November, St. Damien Doctor and Mission Director Father Rick Frechette wrote another letter describing the situation in Haiti that we wanted to share with you:

Dear Friends,

Gaudete, in Domino semper!
Rejoice in the Lord, always!

These words that begin mass today, the third Sunday of Advent, give rise to the name “Gaudete Sunday”. Today is unusual in that it is one of only two Sundays of the year where the priest wears pink vestments.

Since the normal color for both advent and lent is purple, (for contrition, woundedness and preparation), we well might consider pink a “softer purple.” Its not the gold or white of the usual rejoicing, but rather there still is an element of the drudgery. And yet a happy escape from it too. “Christmas is close, the Savior is near, take a moment to breath, don’t weaken.”

I am up earlier than planned, at 1 am, because off the death of a child in our cholera camp. Our camp is called “St Philomena,” after Sister Philomena Perreault who helped us in Haiti for so many years. As we light the pink candle of the advent wreath in a few more hours, we will also remember one more life that was snuffed out by a dreadful disease, and the tears and crying of the mother. We are all the poorer for this death, for every death.

Purple is also a part of the black and blue of the healing injury, the bleed under the skin. It’s a good color to represent the people of Haiti this year who have received more than their fair share of life’s blows.

Back to our camp. You have to try to imagine the 16 huge tents, spread out on gravel, extension chords bringing feeble power everywhere. Two washing machines under a tent, filled by buckets, dumping into a big dug hole, wash endless loads of sheets stained with deadly diarrhea. Twenty to thirty people a day are carried in, floppy bodies, by hook or by crook, even in these days of riots they somehow break through barricades. Rivers of Ringers Lactate flow through our endless tubing to revive them. Most do well. In fact, of almost 900 people who have come to us sick, only 15 have died of cholera. This is sad, yet we are encouraged that most people by far have fought and done well. None of our staff have contracted cholera after these many weeks of intense work, nor have we tracked it into our St Damien or St Luke hospital.

Still, our supplies run out, we can’t manage too much on site for emergencies, resuscitation, special medicines or tests, tension run high, tight nerves in strained doctors and patients make for a good bit of drudgery. But, we put Tang in our rehydration drinks, a Christmas tree and other lights try to make the nights a little festive, we have a big TV for those who are able to sit up and watch it and forget life for a while, and we try to keep everyone supplied with wonderful Christmas presents: a bar of soap, some toothpaste, a toothbrush, a towel.

I mentioned in a previous message the many medical challenges: the pregnant woman with cholera, the baby born in a cholera tent, the patients with heart disease who need loads of fluid fast and whose hearts can’t handle it. We had another unusual challenge: a prisoner with cholera was brought at midnight. The police wanted us to handcuff him to his cot. We refused. It is cruel to cuff a sick patient to a hospital bed. Crueler still to chain someone with massive diarrhea to a bed.

So the police kept watch instead. During the following afternoon, the prisoner said to the police he had to go down to the toilettes, and off he went with his hospital gown and carrying his IV bag high in the air. And he kept going, and going…and that was that, right out the gate. He escaped in a hospital gown with his IV in hand.

You have read of the riots these days. I spent two afternoons in the middle of them, driving around town picking up people we needed to help us. Imagine the problems riots bring in addition to being riots. You have 16 portable toilettes for cholera-diarrhea and the honey truck can’t pass through the streets to empty them. It’s not pretty. Your doctors and nurses can’t get to work. Stores are closed for days, in case you need more toilette paper, soap, laundry detergent, food, Tang, or cash.

The way we got around the city was something. I made an arrangement with 20 thugs, for a day’s pay. They were leaders in the riots in our part of the city. Three went ahead of my truck on motorcycles, and 17 rode with us in the back. We drove through the burning and barricaded city, while they pushed barricades out of the way and tangled with anyone who tried to stop us. It worked so well, I also did it the next day. It’s how we got essential staff to the hospital and the tents. Needless to say from the burning tires and debris we were covered with soot, so hard to get out that even after three showers we looked like we were wearing mascara.

As if this weren’t trying enough, the skies turned gray for two days, and drizzled lightly, not enough to put out the fires but enough that our hundred of washed sheets wouldn’t’dry. And when the sun finally did come out, so did small hornets, by the thousands, and they covered us. Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. Ask Patty Rowland, who is back for a second round of 10 days to help at St Philomena.

Purple?  Yes.
Just the right color.

Pick today?
Yes, very welcome.

Gaudete? Rejoice?
Yes, We still find the way.
I trust you do too.

Hope is the key, and it really does spring eternal.

As always, count on our thanks and prayers, in exchange for yours. Thanks for the help that keeps us going and not doing too badly. Merry Christmas as it gets very near.

Fr Rick Frechette CP

For more information on MedShare’s ongoing relief efforts in Haiti or to donate, visit our Help for Haiti page.

(photo via nph.org)

Letter from the field: St. Damien Hospital, Haiti.

Patients at St. Damien Hospital

MedShare supports St. Damien Hospital, the premier pediatric hospital in Haiti that provides all services free of charge.  Currently, the hospital is overwhelmed with cholera cases.

St. Damien Doctor and Mission Director Father Rick Frechette wrote a report describing the cholera situation in Haiti that we wanted to share with you:

Dear Friends,

I worked all night at our cholera treatment area, and during the night I saw a comparison I never would have imagined. Stepping out of the tents for fresh air from time to time, I saw the pearly white  crescent moon overhead, beautiful and calming. Inside the tents, also set against a deep darkness, the eyes of the most severe of the sick people have the same form. Eyes sunk deeply to that the whites of the eye stay below the upper eyelid, with the eye rolled upward toward the forehead. Two crescent moons. It is a scary sight to see the depth of the apathy and surrender, not an ounce of fight left. It is sadder still to see it in children.

The last time I wrote there were about 4,300 reported cases of cholera in Haiti. That number is climbing to 20,000 with 1000 deaths. I read reports that about 200,000 cases are anticipated before there is a decline. We are setting up two more tents of 16 cots each, which will put our small base at 100 beds. You can believe me that even 100 people represent enormous human suffering, as well as enormous devotion (and work!).

The public morgue will not accept bodies, for fear of cholera. You cannot even bring the garbage to the normal dump without getting stoned by the neighbours for fear of cholera. We are cremating our own dead. It is sobering to be the one to push the furnace button, after placing the child inside. All night I see how closely the parents cling to their children, accepting to sleep in the most difficult positions as they find the best way to hold their child. I watch them and admire them, but the in the case of the children I am sure will die, it seems so unfair that the children are slipping away from such tender arms. The last arms to hold them are mine, as I place them in the crematorium. The grief of the mothers is as difficult for us to take as the illness.

In the book of revelations, St John says he saw a woman “Clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” I still believe if there is a moon nearby, so is that special woman, who Christians believe to be with us in joys and in sorrows, and at the hour of our death.

Fr. Rick Frechette

Father Rick was also interviewed on the Univision Network last week to speak more about the sitiation. Click here to view the video.

For more information on MedShare’s ongoing relief efforts in Haiti or to donate, visit our Help for Haiti page.

Patients at St. Damien Hospital

Patients at St. Damien Hospital