Over the years, and especially since its devastating earthquake of 2010, EMS World has devoted a lot of coverage to the plight of Haiti—its desperately poor people, lack of infrastructure, and struggle to provide basic emergency medical care to its injured and ill. Sometimes, though, photos can tell a story like that as well as words. The images here—contributed by California firefighter/EMT Patrick Bennett, who works in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, with an organization called Hero Ambulance—offer a searing depiction of the challenges EMS providers face in the impoverished nation.
Writes Bennett: I have been volunteering in Haiti for a little more than a month. We are the only ambulance in the country that is ALS-staffed and -equipped. Almost 90% of our calls are for children and babies who have serious medical conditions and are malnourished. Most of our transports are free—we will not deny a pediatric transport because they cannot pay. The average Haitian family makes $400 a year, and healthcare is not possible for most Haitians. Today, unfortunately, we are running out of funding and volunteers.Working EMS in Haiti is completely different than in the United States. In my time here I have been on a wide range of calls. I have worked multiple pediatric codes. I have seen patients die at hospitals because they could not pay to get admitted. I have arrived at hospitals with critical patients only to be met at the door and told, “Sorry, we have no beds—you cannot come here.”The cultural differences are also a challenge. For example, you have to bring patients through doorways headfirst—otherwise it’s extremely disrespectful to the family.Our goal with Hero is to get western paramedics and EMTs to come train our local Haitian staff to American EMS standards. We are trying to create a sustainable organization and bring ALS care to Haiti permanently. We carry all the medications any American ambulance would, plus additional medications only available in hospitals because of our long transports—some are hours long, and we might have to start something like antibiotics en route. Our paramedics follow very loose protocols that allow them to do whatever it takes to save the patient.We do everything we can but are in need of volunteers and donations to keep afloat.
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