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More UM Nurses Heading to Haiti to Help Meet Patients' Growing Demand for Expert Medical Care

2/1/2010

Haiti Photos

Three weeks after much of Haiti was devastated by a 7.0-magnitide earthquake, physicians and other health care workers from the Miller School continue to brave the odds to care for thousands of the quake's victims. To meet the ever-changing demand for specific categories of medical personnel, 15 nurses will head to Haiti tonight and 20 more are scheduled to fly to the ravaged country tomorrow.

The nurses are badly needed to help staff the University of Miami hospital that opened in Port-au-Prince just 10 days after the massive Jan. 12 quake left the capital city without a functioning medical institution. The 240-bed hospital, which was officially dedicated on Saturday, is a four-tent compound at the edge of the Port-au-Prince airport. With four operating rooms, dialysis and X-ray machines, telemedicine capabilities and sleeping accommodations, it has become a beacon of life for the country's critically injured residents.

Still, dozens of the most severe cases needed more advanced care and were flown to Miami – flights that government officials halted last week but resumed today, according to the White House. UM physicians in Haiti expressed relief, citing several patients who have been treated in Haiti but now need care in a traditional medical environment.

The nurses set to fly to Haiti will augment the hospital staff that consists of volunteers from the University family and beyond. The mounting medical needs of earthquake survivors remains the Miller School's top priority. Last week volunteers with UM's medical team began deploying for five days at a time to assure continuity of care. By mid-February, volunteers may be asked to stay at least a week.

The longer deployments come as the task force, the tireless cadre of doctors, administrators, staff and volunteers who are working non-stop to coordinate the massive medical mission, settles in for the long haul. On Friday, Barth Green, M.D., and other task force members indicated a pressing need for skilled administrators who can oversee day-to-day administrative functions at the hospital over the long-term.

"We need people who can stay here for months, not days or a week," said Green, who co-founded Project Medishare to improve health care access in Haiti after a medical mission to the impoverished country in 1994. "That's really what we need."

Though security at the four-tent hospital compound remains an issue, recently arriving volunteers are beginning to find growing signs of order and routine amid the chaos that accompanies all large-scale disasters. For example, doctors, nurses, patients, their families and other volunteers are now receiving three hot meals a day, thanks to local vendors who deliver breakfast, lunch and dinner to the camp.

That's a noticeable improvement over the power bars, peanut butter and crackers the first waves of volunteers subsisted on. Still, Rafael Campo, M.D., medical director of employee health and infection control, is urging UM volunteers to choose the military's MREs, or Meals-Ready-to Eat, over local food to avoid intestinal distress.

In addition to health care professionals, especially Creole-speaking nurses, who can assist in Haiti, raising money for the Global Institute to support the University's doctors, nurses and students in Haiti remains a priority. You may make an online donation directly to the Global Institute or send a check made out to the "University of Miami-Global Institute" to P.O. Box 248073, Coral Gables, Florida, 33124.

If you are willing and able to assist in Haiti and have not yet submitted your contact information, please fill out the volunteer sign-up form. If you already have submitted your volunteer contact information, there is no need to take further action.