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BCFS brings relief and recovery to victims in Haiti

February 26th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

A Baptist Child & Family Services medical team left Feb. 12 for Port-au-Prince to aid the Haiti Children’s Rescue Mission, an orphanage that was sheltering a number of youth, ranging from infants to teenagers, many of whom were suffering from painful illnesses and injuries due to the quake.

The team quickly discovered that was only the tip of the need in a country rocked by an earthquake.

During the course of the next two weeks, BCFS’ team extended its ministry to meet the needs of those also seeking medical help at one of the primary Haitian hospitals and others living in tent camps, bringing relief and recovery to countless victims.

“When BCFS’ team arrived at Hospital Adventist, the scene was very chaotic,” said BCFS President Kevin Dinnin. “Patients tugged desperately at physicians and nurses to get their attention as they tended to other patients. Donated medications and surgical instruments were thrown into boxes stacked in hallways and makeshift supply rooms, unorganized and undocumented. And a tent city recovery ward for 150 patients was operating in front of the main hospital for victims who had undergone amputations and surgeries after the quake.”

Normally a hospital for about 50 inpatients, the facility had surged to more than 250 inpatients and another 300 individuals in triage and the emergency department.

BCFS staff members worked with hospital leadership to drastically increase the efficiency by which people were processed and treated, implementing what is known as Incident Command System principles.

The BCFS medical team began operating two 12-hour shifts and producing daily action plans, providing medical staff – most of whom were volunteers from around the U.S. – with better situational awareness and short- and long-term goals. BCFS became an integral component of the management team that cared for more than 250 inpatients and an average of 300 outpatients daily.

“It was a high point for me when hospital personnel and responders were asked at the conclusion of the ‘A’ shift briefing – just 36 hours after implementing ICS – if there were any unmet needs, and not one hand raised. None,” Dinnin said.

Aftershocks as strong as 4.7 set off panic, with patients leaping off their hospital beds with IVs still attached to their arms and mothers grabbing their newborn infants from the pediatric ward, running outside in the middle of the night in fear that the buildings might collapse.

On Feb. 23, a strong aftershock prompted two expectant mothers to flee from the labor and delivery ward. BCFS medical team personnel and hospital staff quickly acquired the necessary resources to accommodate the delivery of two new babies under a makeshift tarp set up on the grounds of the hospital. Since BCFS engaged the hospital nearly weeks ago, there have been more than 50 births.

Dinnin praises the hospital administrator, Andrew Haglund, for his hard work and diligence since the quake. “Andrew quickly embraced the values and principles of ICS, which I frankly think saved this hospital as much as the medical resources did,” said Dinnin.

BCFS has committed to stand by Haglund in his ongoing assignment to return the hospital to normal operations. Should another major quake occur while Haglund is in Haiti running this hospital, Dinnin said, “We won’t wait for his call for help; a full BCFS Incident Management Team will be on the way. This is a pact we have made to each other and for the people of Haiti.”

The youth at the Haiti Children’s Rescue Mission are also in better health and spirits thanks to BCFS. The orphanage, which is normally home for 60 children, had surged to 125 since the devastating quake.

When the BCFS team first arrived, all the children had scabies and many were suffering from upper respiratory illnesses. BCFS Medical Director David Marks and volunteer nurses treated children with antibiotics, tetanus shots, de-worming medication and wound care. Since potable water was not readily accessible, BCFS purchased three potable water dispensers to provide clean drinking water for the children.

BCFS also agreed to fund the hiring of 10 child care workers for a year to ease the workload since the quake. The organization has also committed to assist with the purchase a large permanent facility for the orphanage.

BCFS’ first team has returned safely from Haiti and the second team has taken their place at Hospital Adventist and the rescue mission. The remaining team members will return home March 1, transitioning incident management back to the full control of hospital leadership.

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