Under Tough Conditions, Miller School Physicians Continue Medical Relief Efforts in Haiti While Miami-Based Task Force Organizes More Aid
Nearly a week after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, Miller School doctors, among the first responders to rush to the nation in need, are still there treating hundreds of the injured and the saving the lives of some of the sickest patients. Back in Miami, a Miller School conference room that has been transformed into a command center, has been buzzing daily with the activities of the Haiti Task Force, faculty and staff who are behind a whirlwind of relief activities, including arranging for several private planes to get UM doctors to Haiti and critically injured patients to Miami.
Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., was part of a team that flew to Haiti Sunday to help treat and organize more on-the-ground medical care for thousands of Haitians who are relying on care, not only from international aid agencies, but also from the UM doctors who have been working in the country for decades through Project Medishare and UM’s Global Institute for Community Health and Development.
"Thousands of people have been killed or severely injured," said William O'Neill, M.D., Executive Dean for Clinical Affairs who on Monday updated the command center team about his recent visit. "As soon as we got there, our team of UM and Jackson physicians were starting IVs."
O’Neill was coordinating treatment for patients who arrived in Miami Monday, including a woman with a pelvic fracture who was admitted at University of Miami Hospital. UM physicians have been treating quake victims at UMH and Jackson Memorial Hospital for several days.
In Haiti, the team of UM physicians has grown to more than 100. Barth Green, M.D., professor and chairman of neurological surgery and co-founder of Project Medishare, along with several other physicians, arrived in Haiti and began treating the critically wounded less than 24 hours after the disaster left an estimated 50,000 dead and untold numbers without shelter, food, water and other basic essentials and services.
With the aid of the relentless command center team, the Miller School contingent in Haiti is organizing a tent hospital to better serve the patients who are in dire need of medical care. The tent facility would be able to house about 300 of the most critical patients.
"Through the Global Institute and Project Medishare, we are turning our efforts to a longer and larger commitment and setting up the field hospital with two operating rooms is one of the first steps," said O’Neill. "We are also working on a national aid effort that is being coordinated by Frank Eismont, M.D., chair of orthopaedics, that will allow orthopaedic surgery to be performed around the clock."
Plans are also being made to use donated land to erect recovery centers for the many people who have been treated but need more time to properly heal. One plot of land, located in Tabarre, was donated by Jean Marc Apollon, who was assisting at the command center on Monday.
Apollon was in Miami at the time of the quake but his three sons, ages 10, 7 and 14 months, were at home in Haiti and were injured when their house collapsed. The 7-year-old, Karim, a U.S. citizen, was critical after he suffered a fractured skull, injured jaw and had respiratory problems from an injured lung. He was one of the first to be flown to Miami and was among the patients visited by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson visited at Holtz Children’s Hospital on Friday.
"They are all doing well and my family is forever grateful to Dr. Green and the other doctors who did everything to help," said Apollon, adding that the boys are all recuperating well.
On Friday, Ransom-Everglades School students and Ellen Moceri, head of the school, gave Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., a check for $29,340.28. The students raised the sum after selecting the UM Global Institute for its fundraising efforts.
The Haiti Task Force, consisting of senior faculty and members of the health system leadership, continues to meet daily to coordinate the volunteer and relief effort, and plan for the prolonged mission that will be required throughout what will undoubtedly be Haiti’s agonizingly long and slow recovery.
Even before the quake struck, Haitians endured a fragile infrastructure with extensive health care shortages and gaps, which Project Medishare and other UM programs had been working so arduously to close. Now, the suffering has markedly increased and much more help is needed.
As part of the relief effort, the Miller School is reaching out to doctors who would like to assist and will help with arrangements to get them to Haiti.
O’Neill said while there is much more to be done, the Miller School’s heroic work in Haiti will continue daily.
"The entire University community can take great pride that, while the rest of the world was anxious to help, we did immediately," said O’Neill.