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Haiti Surgeons

Monday, 29 March 2010

Mr David Moore, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Blackrock Clinic & Tallaght Hospital

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of January 12th in Haiti a group of Irish Orthopaedic surgeons visited the country to see if there was scope for the Irish orthopaedic community to help in the relief efforts there. The amount and severity of injuries sustained in the earthquake was shocking and we were fortunate to meet with Dr Louise Ivers, an Irish doctor who works in Haiti. Dr Ivers is the medical director in Haiti for a Boston based charity called Partners in Health ( that runs 10 hospitals in the country.

Unlike most hospitals in the area these hospitals provide care free of charge to the poor. We visited a hospital in a place called Cange where we were able to operate on patients suffering from injuries sustained in the earthquake.

The hospital in Cange ordinarily provides mainly obstetric and paediatric services with some general surgery. It really did not have the expertise or equipment to deal with the types of injuries it was seeing in these testing times. 'Partners in Health' were coordinating teams of trauma and orthopaedic surgeons from mainly the USA to deal with these patients. As a result of our meeting and experience we were able to offer to Dr Ivers the services of teams from Ireland to assist with their efforts. We have already sent two teams consisting surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and physiotherapists to Cange and hope to be able to continue to send teams in the future.

As time goes on the specific needs of these patients will change but the need for expertise will not diminish. Rehabilitation services in the form of surgery, physiotherapy and limb fitting will be vital to help people resume any sort of normal life. Advanced nursing care will be required to help with the many complex wounds that will need ongoing treatment. We hope that we will be able to provide personnel and equipment to allow us to maintain a long-term commitment to these people.

This project relies on the willingness of Irish health care professionals to provide their time to go to Haiti. To date we have been delighted with the number of people willing to give their time. For there time and efforts to have the maximum impact equipment and resources will be needed. This project does not have any paid administrative staff and the huge logistic effort is made possible by the efforts of some extremely committed people.

Any money raised for this project will be used directly to transport staff to Cange hospital in Haiti or to source equipment for use in the hospital or one of its sister hospitals. Using contacts in the industry it is often possible to source equipment at cost or near to cost price. The effect of any funds raised can be seen directly in fractures fixed, wounds healed or artificial limbs fitted. This project is relatively small and can only do so much but its effect is immediate and direct and we are enormously grateful for any help forthcoming.

Mr. David Moore - President of the Irish Institute -
Traumatic and Orthopaedic Surgery

After the earthquake the institute got in touch with Mary Harney to see if it was possible to get a team over to Haiti. Although there was a genuine effort made on the department's part, there was a lot of problems with sending over a team of doctors and their efforts were futile. It wasn't until The Royal College of Surgeons had contacted Mr. Moore to say there is an Irish Doctor in Haiti, Dr. Ivers, who runs a hospital in Cange, 50km from Port Au Prince. Although this was not in the epicentre of the earthquake, there was a limited amount of medical attention throughout the main city, with most relying on a medical ship from the US where most emergencies were treated after the quake.

Within 3 days there were three surgeons that gave up their time and got on a plane to the region to decide if it was feasible, which it was and ten days later they had a team of nurses and doctors going over to work in the hospital for ten days.

This was a massive achievement as funds had to be raised and all the team had to be vaccinated. It took a big leap of faith as many doctors funded their own trip, or paid for travel before the funds came in from the charities, and the journey alone took three days.

Mr. Moore was included in this group. He said that on arrival to the island, they passed by Santa Da Mingo, which was the worst hit. Buildings were fallen down around them but the atmosphere was that of calm and normality. People were going about their day, as though life had to go on.

In his region there was no evidence of earthquakes, but he dealt with a lot of people, mainly children, who had serious disabilities due to the quake. By the time he got there, over one month later, most patients had had an amputee, and others were still arriving. There were no children there on their own, although many of them had lost parents but had been found and looked after by a family member.

His most shocking moments was when he visited an orphanage on an island off Haiti. This was there before the earthquake and was not affected by it but he says it's the saddest thing he's ever seen. He also says that people were living in the middle of major roads, comparing it to shantytowns being built in the middle of the N11 dual carriageway.

In terms of facilities, he has seen better in Vietnam than he did in Haiti. They had very basic facilities, approx 80 - 90 patients at a time, with the biggest ward having 40 people in a part of a church, sleeping on mattresses. The conditions varied but he uses an analogy to describe the importance of medical care for these people as imagining how sore it is when one brick might fall on your leg, and then imagine a wall or building.
What struck him the most was that although the children had serious deformities and people were sick, they were always smiling.

They live day to day instead of planning for the future. One man had been receiving treatment but hadn't fully recovered for the long term. However when Mr. Moore went to examine if he was ready to go home he was already gone. He felt better after a month of being in extreme pain, and didn't realise that it was only short term recovery. Another man had a tumour in his arm who Dr. Moore was treating. One day Mr Moore was told that he had left the hospital because he heard a voodoo man in the area was able to cure him.