‘Absolutely overwhelmed’: Haiti hospitals struggle after quake

Many health facilities remain saturated in the worst-hit areas of Haiti as helicopters ferry the injured to Port-au-Prince.

Doctors from the US organisation Medic Corps transfer an injured man to a helicopter at the Ofatma Hospital in Les Cayes [Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters]

Hospitals in Haiti were overwhelmed on Saturday with people seeking care for broken limbs and other traumatic injuries from the devastating earthquake last weekend that killed more than 2,000 people.

“There’s huge need. There’s a huge influx of patients that are coming in. There’s a lot of trauma, limb fractures and traumatic injuries in most of the patients,” said Rawan Hamadeh, a healthcare professional with Project Hope’s emergency response team in the southwestern city of Les Cayes.

Patients are being housed outside in tents because the hospital in Les Cayes where she is working was damaged by the earthquake, Hamadeh told Al Jazeera on Friday.

“It’s completely crowded. The load of patients is very high. There isn’t enough resources. There isn’t enough medication, medical supplies or even human resources,” said Hamadeh.

Damaged or impassable roads hindered efforts to deliver aid to remote parts of Haiti as hopes of finding those still missing faded.

Landslides and cracks in the tarmac on the main inland mountain road between Les Cayes and Jeremie to its northwest, two of the hardest hit urban areas, made it harder to dispatch aid to farming communities short of food and drinkable water.

Project Hope was attempting to deliver food and medicine by helicopter to rural areas, Hamadeh said.

The poorest country in the Americas, Haiti is still recovering from a 2010 quake that killed more than 200,000 people. It was pitched into political instability by the assassination on July 7 of President Jovenel Moise, by what authorities say was a group of Colombian and American mercenaries.

“We are all absolutely overwhelmed,” Prime Minister Ariel Henry said in a meeting with the Organization of American States on Friday. “Every commune, every city, every village in that area was very hard hit.”

A powerful storm that hit Haiti earlier this week, triggering landslides, has also made it harder to find victims of last Saturday’s quake, which destroyed tens of thousands of homes and killed at least 2,189 people.

Some 332 people are still missing, while 12,200 people were injured, authorities said.

Many hospitals remained saturated in the worst-hit areas of Haiti. At Les Cayes airport, helicopters ferried the injured to the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The kidnapping by gangs of two doctors in the capital, including one of the few trained orthopaedic surgeons in Haiti, has added to the strain. Some hospitals decided to shut down temporarily in protest, demanding the release of the doctors, local media reported.

An orthopaedic surgeon worked at Bernard Mevs hospital told Radio RFM the kidnapping “paralyses the care that the hospital was beginning to provide to earthquake victims”.

Digging graves

In the village of Marceline, 25km (16 miles) north of Les Cayes, a dozen residents were digging in a vast pile of rubble of what was once a handful of houses. The air smelled of decomposing bodies, and residents said at least one woman who lived in one of the buildings was still missing.

A woman walks past destroyed houses after the earthquake on August 14 in Marceline, near Les Cayes [Henry Romero/Reuters]

Elsewhere in the village, some people dug graves to prepare for funerals, while other families still waited for the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered from the rubble.

Amerlin Dorcy surveyed rescue efforts at the house where, on Saturday morning, his mother Seralia Dejoit and others were attending a voodoo ceremony when the quake struck.

She and other worshippers were buried by the falling cement.

“She’s still missing, we don’t even have her body to bury,” said Dorcy, explaining  his mother had been called upon to sing at Saturday’s ceremony by the head priestess.

The latest calamity brought back memories for Dorcy of the 2010 quake, which he survived by fleeing from a collapsing three-storey building he was inside in Port-au-Prince.

“Now there’s another earthquake and it’s my mother who’s the victim,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies