Building on Success in Haiti

by Christina Frangou

When Dr. Andrew Furey walked through the doors at Hospital Bernard Mevs for the first time in 2011, he saw a place functioning like a hospital but amid chaos.

The one-time private home had been refurbished into an outpatient day surgery clinic before the earthquake in January 2010. In the months following, Project Medishare moved its tent hospital to Bernard Mevs, transforming it into the only trauma and critical care hospital in Haiti.

“But it was still extremely rudimentary. In the chaos of the time, it was excellent but there was a still a long way to go. You could see the foundations of something that would be bigger and better, which was what was attractive to me and us,” said Dr. Furey.

Leap forward seven years and long-awaited new facilities have opened on the grounds of Bernard Mevs. There is a state-of-the-art medical unit, spinal cord injuries unit, adult intensive care unit, neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, as well as a standalone emergency department and triage.

A new two-story structure, funded largely by Team Broken Earth, houses a medical-surgical unit that effectively doubles the capacity of the hospital in terms of patient beds and adds a fourth operating suite to the hospital.

Dr. Joanna Cherry, Chief Medical Officer at Hospital Bernard Mevs, said the new facilities will contribute to improved working conditions for staff and better patient outcomes.

“We are able to see patients in a more appropriate setting and afford them privacy and comfort. Part of our ongoing teaching and empowerment of our staff is working in an environment that is modern and capable. Staff education, satisfaction and pride in their work leads directly to better patient outcomes.”

The top floor of the new building has dormitory-styles suites for volunteers, with private bathrooms and a shared kitchen. Beds are available for up to 40 volunteers. This is key for a hospital that relies on volunteer healthcare workers for both patient care and staff education.

The hope is that Bernard Mevs will eventually function without the assistance of volunteers but, for now, they remain essential, said Dr. Furey.

“The goal is to work ourselves out of a job. Where is that on the horizon, I don’t know. It’s closer than it was five years ago but I don’t know where it is.”

The new wing, built with a budget of around $450,000 US, was funded largely by Team Broken Earth. The organization has also contributed to refurbishing the hospital’s operating suites with new equipment, including a new autoclave and a C-arm for intraoperative imaging.

These are dramatic changes for a small hospital that serves a large population of trauma and critical illness in Port-au-Prince. Still, there is yet more to be done, said Dr. Cherry.

“We are still not there yet. With new facilities comes an expanding workforce and budget.”

“These buildings are the first step.”

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