A Recent Visit to Haiti
I recently traveled to Haiti with my husband, and the incredible Evelyne Fleury Milfort, nurse practitioner and diabetes educator at USC. The purpose of our visit was to provide training for health care professionals at all levels concerning the treatment of people with diabetes. Because we want to continue helping the people of Haiti, we need a plan of action, and it is clear that our first step is to share our experience with you.
Over a year after the earthquake, Haiti remains submerged in rubble. The streets are nearly impossible to navigate through due to debris, broken buildings, and people sitting, selling and milling about – 70% of the population is unemployed so there is nowhere else for them to go. It is estimated that over 1 million Haitians are still living in tents.
The general hospital is under-resourced, crowded, and chaotic. In the pediatric ward, there are three rows of 20 cribs running in parallel with open windows for relief from the heat. Mothers sat next to their children on metal folding chairs and at night, they would sleep on the dirty concrete floor under their child’s crib. There were no glucose meters or strips in the ward, or in most places in the hospital. We saw what it was like to care for diabetes in children without glucose measurements – an impossible proposition.
We were in Haiti to work with a group called FHADIMAC – Foundation of Haiti about Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease. It was started 25 years ago by the wife of prominent endocrinologist, Dr. Rene Charles who today is 80 years old and has an encyclopedic knowledge of diabetes. The group provides diabetes education, supplies and support at affordable costs and free for most children.
We met hundreds of NGO representatives, doctors, nurses, educators, and medical students who are trying to learn how to improve the diagnosis and care of patients with diabetes because they realize it is time to focus on chronic care issues. We visited one of the private medical schools – housed in tents where I lectured about diabetes. The fourth year students had no idea what insulin did. They wrote down every word and drew every image in their notebooks.
Recognizing that helping Haiti requires the Haitian people to be empowered to help themselves, here are our some of the next steps we plan to take in order to help them get started:
1. Enable the wards and ORs in the main hospitals of Port Au Prince to have glucose meters and strips – and to have training on their usage.
2. Continue to support and expand the train the trainer model for diabetes educators – nurses, dieticians, social workers, pharmacists and community health workers.
3. Develop a way to provide support and answer the questions of Haitian healthcare providers and all Haitian professionals with an interest in diabetes.
4. Provide simple computer-based data collection instruments so FHADIMAC can more effectively care for its patients, improve the quality of care they provide and monitor the health of their entire population.
5. Ensure that all children in Haiti who can’t afford to pay for their insulin receive it free from FHADIMAC. This is currently being done for 50 children in partnership with Insulin for Life.
6. Support the medical school by helping it improve its diabetes education efforts by sending books, slides sets, journals and equipment.
Editor’s note: Dr. Kaufman is just one of many employees who have volunteered time to support Haiti relief efforts. In addition to employee commitment, Medtronic has donated a total of $2.1 million in grants, product donations and employee matching funds to address the recovery and healthcare needs of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. This has been Medtronic’s largest effort in disaster relief to date. Following last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Medtronic Foundation has committed $1 million to support near- and long-term relief efforts.