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American Academy of Ophthalmology
Dispatch from Haiti: Meeting with Local Hospitals
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Mildred Olivier, MD | Midwest Glaucoma Center
Academy member Mildred Olivier has been traveling to Haiti two to three times per year since 1993.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 2010

We arrived early at Haitian Community Hospital (HCH) and attended the morning briefing. Logistical problems were addressed: feeding the volunteer staff, recognizing all activities relating to patient care and mobility in the hospital. We also thought that we needed a complete list of medical and surgical health care professionals volunteering at the center, so I was in charge of getting the list.

Getting the list allowed me to get to know a lot of the individuals, including their subspecialties and expertise. Among the staff were photographers and logistics personnel. Astrid, my surgical nurse from Illinois, went outside to help patients establish a medical education card, which recorded patients' name, date of birth, diagnosis, and so forth. Meanwhile Pierre Louis, MD, saw a few neurology consultations that had ophthalmic manifestations.

We wanted to visit the general hospital to get a sense of the demand. We drove up to the general hospital and were met at the door by U.S. military with revolvers. From there we went to radiology where administrative services had been transferred and met with Miss Thompson. There were long lines of individuals waiting to receive soap. While we were there we saw Maxime Coles, MD (orthopedics, AMHE), and Pierre Pierre, MD (anesthesiology, AMHE).

We left the hospital meeting and talked to several military recruits. We decided that we needed to visit the ophthalmic department of the University of Miami at the airport. Kaz Soong, MD, also on the Task Force on Haiti Recovery, was to have arrived that day. When we arrived we saw many field hospitals created by different countries. We went to the newly built University of Miami complex where we met Michel Dodard, MD, and Eddy Gedeon (former Haitian minister of health) who both were exhausted from the countless patients they had seen.

Dr. Olivier and friends       Dr. Olivier and friends
Left: Drs. Bridgette Hudicourt, Olivier and Kaz Soong. Right: Drs. Michael Doddard, Eddy Gedeon and Olivier.

The base was supplied and the director, Barth Green, MD, was very gracious after meeting Brigette Hudicourt, MD, with a message from her mom. She needed distilled water to run the sterilizer for more surgery and cots for the patients sleeping on the floor pre- and post-surgery. He was happy to help and asked Dr. Zak to help us seal the deal. In meantime, chicken soup and bottles of Gatorade were very welcome. We were able to negotiate 150 air mattresses to be delivered the same day to HCH.

While leaving the compound, we were disappointed to hear that the eye team had left urgently to return to Miami. We saw Dr. Soong, who talked to us. We left to pick up Dr. Christine Sajous. She had been involved in a consultation of three neonates who had been sent to the Israeli hospital and then transferred to the St. Damien Children's Hospital. It was well built, organized with the same arrangement of tents in the front yard. Breadbaskets were in the administrative area. They were being prepared to be delivered to the patients. Having recently been at the University of Miami Jacksonville's hospital, we saw that the Walt Disney-decorated walls were missing. However the few Haitian pieces brought color to the building.

Our needs are still very basic and include bedding, tents, distilled water, crutches, prostheses, pins and external devices, food for volunteers.

Dr. Olivier arrives in Haiti      Sleeping arrangements
Left: Serge Pierre Louis, MD, Dr. Olivier and Astrid Januszkiewicz, RN. Right: sleeping arrangement for visiting physicians.

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