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'U' clinic, hospital aids relief efforts in Haiti

BY CHELSEA LANGE
For the Daily
Published January 14, 2010

While governments and organizations from nations around the world are quickly responding to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Haiti on Tuesday, the University community is also helping those in need.

A Port-au-Prince nursing school — founded in part by a University professor — is providing aid to many in the ravaged country and the University of Michigan Health System announced yesterday that it will be sending personnel to assist in the relief efforts.

According to a message posted yesterday on the Health System’s website, Ora Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs, is forming a task force to develop a response to the crisis.

“I have asked Tony Denton, COO of our Health Centers, to lead a task force charged with developing and enacting a Health System response, including providing medical and support personnel on the scene in Haiti, use of our clinical facilities in Ann Arbor and coordination of organized distribution of medical and pharmaceutical supplies through established international medical relief channels,” Pescovitz wrote.

In addition to the Health System response, the Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti also has people aiding victims on the ground in Haiti. The school was co-founded by Ruth Barnard, a retired associate professor in the School of Nursing.

FSIL is still standing and has students working around the clock to assist the injured in the aftermath of the natural disaster, according to Barnard.

“The yards are filled with people, and the students are caring for them,” she said.

The Pan American Health Organization told The Associated Press yesterday that at least eight hospitals or health centers in Port-au-Prince, have collapsed or can’t provide care. The organization also told the AP that other health centers are “overwhelmed.”

FSIL, which opened Jan. 10, 2005, gives Haitian students a chance to learn and study a typical American nursing curriculum and includes training for natural disasters, according to Barnard.

“It’s the same kind of curriculum that you get at any leading school here in the United States like the University of Michigan,” she said.

Barnard said Haiti’s public infrastructure has been in need of reorganization and assistance, especially because of its lack of health care for most citizens. There are only 10.7 nurses per 100,000 residents and 30 doctors per 100,000 people in the country, Bernard wrote in a statement released by the University.

“The hospitals are not well supplied because they have no system to pay for things and even for a regular patient in a hospital, they have to send their family to the drugstore to buy the IV bag or the needle,” Bernard said.

Many of those who survived the quake are left without food and water, surrounded by a scene of ruined buildings mixed with dead bodies.

The international Red Cross estimated 45,000 to 50,000 dead and recovery teams have resorted to using bulldozers to transport bodies. Brazilian United Nations peacekeepers are trying to organize mass burials.

Because of the crumbled roads and damaged seaport, international aid to the survivors of the quake has been minimal. According to estimates by the Red Cross, one third of Haiti’s nine million people are in need of aid.

President Barack Obama announced that the United States would start with $100 million in aid, "one of the largest relief efforts in our recent history." This weekend 2,000 Marines are set to join the 100 paratroopers that landed in Haiti yesterday to provide aid, the U.S. Southern Command reported.

Obama appointed former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to lead the fundraising effort for relief to the devastated country.

Haitian President Rene Preval is working from the airport to remain in control of the situation, according to President Leonel Fernandez of the neighboring Dominican Republic. The National Palace and other government buildings were destroyed in the earthquake, interfering with national leadership.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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