I arrived with Julie Manley and Roger R. Jean-Charles, both MD’s, at CDTI Hospital in Port-au-Prince 5 days after the earthquake to find a busy hospital that had been running at full throttle since the disaster had struck on the afternoon of January 12th. 2 modern operating rooms and a GI suite upstairs and 5 tables in the emergency room downstairs were all occupied with surgeons and anesthesiologists busily working away.
They had modern x-rays and ultrasound!
I had never seen such a modern hospital in Haiti.
So how did it come to be there?
A few days later, when we had a chance to catch our breath, I accompanied the principle owner, Dr. Reynold Savain on a tour of the hospital with a structural engineer who was inspecting its damage. Dr. Savain told me that he and his colleagues had wanted to do something for the first time in Haiti: To build a modern hospital that could be found in any country, but, built by Haitians, run by Haitians. It was obvious that they had accomplished this. Very impressive. Soon after opening a couple of years ago the hospital had become the favorite of the embassy staffs and foreign nationals in the country.
Then complete disaster hit. Dr. Savain, his colleagues, and his CDTI Hospital (stands for Center for Diagnosis, Treatment, and Imaging) were suddenly one of the only resources left in the city which could handle severely injured patients from this massive casualty of biblical proportions. It had survived essentially intact largely because of it’s recent construction to modern building standards. Due to safety concerns from some small damage to the foundation of the bed tower no patients were put in the rooms. (Instead a tent ward was set up in front of and behind the hospital.) Likewise, the CT Scan and Interventional Radiology equipment were not known to be safe to use without damaging them, but the modern OR’s, x-ray department, and emergency room were fully functional.
As the magnitude of the disaster began to unfold itself it became quite clear that the hospital would soon run out of fuel for the generators, supplies, medicines, and x-ray films. Dr. Savain knew he had to keep the hospital doors open. Literally hundreds of doctors, nurses and paramedics from the U.S., France, and elsewhere kept the surgeries going. It fast became known amongst us arriving surgeons and anesthesiologists as THE place to be in the city, if you wanted to use the skills that you brought to help, that is.
Dr. Savain has worked day and night. He has now managed to keep CDTI open for over a month, and is going broke (it is suspected by most of us that he is borrowing to keep the hospital open). He is also paying for the concrete and steel repairs for the foundation of the bed tower himself, to get patients inside and out of the sweltering tents.
This hospital, CDTI, is a precious resource for Port-au-Prince, (as is Dr. Savain) and cannot be allowed to close its doors!
All of us who have worked at CDTI over the past month know this to be true.
If it survives, Dr. Savain plans to open a public wing for patients who can’t pay. This would be another first of a kind for Haiti I suspect.
Many of us know people (and companies) of means. Perhaps a hospital where you work would like to do what my hospital * did for me 5 years ago to help the hospital in Gonaives (Haiti’s 3rd largest city) and form a partnership…sister relationship if you will…with CDTI in Haiti. The possibilities for U.S. and Haitian staff exchanges for training and continuing medical education purposes, and an ongoing mutually enriching relationship would be endless!
I challenge anyone who has a spark to continue what we have started in Haiti as a result of this disaster to embrace the need now to keep CDTI Hospital alive!
Jim Smith, MD
*St Mary-Corwin Hospital in Pueblo and Catholic Health Initiatives, its parent company.