Duke doctors offer grim diagnosis after trip to Haiti

Staff WriterFebruary 18, 2010 

A group of 14 doctors and nurses from Duke University Medical Center returned from a 10-day mission in Haiti, where they said injuries and health problems were still vastly untreated after the January earthquake.

Dr. Ian Greenwald, the team leader, said conditions in Port-au-Prince were especially horrific. Doctors were caring for patients in a tent city on the grounds of a hospital that had crumbled during the initial earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.

"I would say that in no way is Haiti out of the emergency phase after this event," Greenwald said. He said many people are still in need of surgeries, revisions to procedures they underwent in crude conditions, infection control and disease management.

"There are truly massive issues," he said.

The Duke team went into the country in collaboration with Partners in Health, which has run a hospital in Conge, Haiti, for years. The organization's founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, is a Duke graduate.

Greenwald said a second group from Duke is planning another mission in upcoming weeks. They also will serve with Partners in Health.

The first group set out for the disaster zone on Feb. 5 and returned Sunday. About half its members worked at the Partners in Health hospital in Conge. That hospital is overwhelmed with the influx of patients from Port-au-Prince, which is at least two hours away by vehicle.

The other half of the team worked at a giant field hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Greenwald said that the heat was sweltering, adding to the difficult conditions. And most operations were done under the battery power of vehicle headlights, he said. "There are frequent power outages, particularly at night, which renders the tents completely pitch black. Providing care in that environment is both physically and emotionally challenging."

savery@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4882

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