n January 12, 2010, Hôpital Adventiste d’Haiti (HAH), in Carrefour, Haiti, found itself at the epicenter of a fierce 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Early reports suggested the hospital was completely destroyed, while others stated that it was partially destroyed, but completely useless.
Fortunately, the hospital, a 70-bed facility built in 1978, received minimal damage. This facility had joined Adventist Health International (AHI), a nonprofit international organization based at Loma Linda University, in 2003.
“We had already been working with Haiti for a number of years,” reports Richard Hart, president of LLU and AHI, “so we knew the facility well and had direct relations with the hospital leadership.”
In the days that followed, HAH began serving as one of the clinical centers for the nation. Hundreds of patients and their families camped outside the hospital waiting to be treated. Scott Nelson, an LLUSM graduate based in the Dominican Republic, came to HAH and began performing orthopaedic surgeries immediately. He was soon joined by Andrew Haglund, assistant professor of health geoinformatics at LLU’s School of Public Health, who was dispatched to coordinate logistics at the hospital.
The nation of Haiti lost upwards of 225,000 people as a result of the earthquake, which also left almost 1 million of the surviving population without proper food, water, shelter, or sanitation. Estimates are that somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 people have had limbs amputated, not to mention the huge number of patients with surgically treated injuries.
To maximize response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, LLU partnered with Florida Hospital in Orlando, Florida. From this collaborative effort a reliable system for scheduling and transporting medical teams, supplies, and equipment into Port-au-Prince emerged. LLU has been coordinating volunteers who arrive in Haiti at the rate of 20 to 30 per week and include medical personnel and logistics support from many other entities.
“It was a blessing to see the many volunteers cooperate,” reports Chris Jobe, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, LLUSM. Jobe traveled to HAH with an orthopaedic team. “Lives and limbs are being saved because of the collective effort of so many people.”
According to Jobe, people from different countries and religions were working together.
“It was a blessing just to see people from all over the world cooperating with one purpose—to save as many lives as they could,” he says.
After visits by both the United States and French ambassadors, the flow of fresh water and other supplies from international donor agencies increased dramatically.
“All indications are that when some of the temporary medical facilities leave Haiti, Hôpital Adventiste d’Haiti will be the most advanced hospital in the country,” Haglund says.
The 2010 graduating class of medical students adopted HAH three years ago as its mission project. In that time they have raised more than $70,000 for the hospital. In addition, School of Medicine students have been traveling to Haiti to help the hospital in the aftermath of the earthquake.
The LLU School of Public Health Center for Public Health Preparedness has also been actively involved in Haiti since the earthquake, sending faculty and staff members trained in disaster assessment and response to help out at both HAH and the internally displaced persons camp that grew on the grounds of Universite Adventiste d’Haiti to contain more than 20,000 people.
As Haiti’s rainy season brought with it an environment in which pathogens can transmit and thrive more easily, preventing the transmission of communicable illnesses was a top priority. School of Public Health personnel worked to address the spread of diarrheal disease and malaria, and had already encountered a couple of cases of typhoid, a serious illness that is easily passed on without proper hygiene and sanitation facilities.
The Global Health Institute at LLU continues to receive names of individuals offering to assist at the hospital, as well as donated medical supplies. They will continue to send volunteers to HAH for the next year and beyond.
Dustin R. Jones is associate editor of the Office of University Relations, Loma Linda University. This article was published April 22, 2010.