I write these words on the fourth anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Haiti – a country where tragedy is an almost daily companion. At 4:53 p.m. on January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Léogâne, a small seaside town located some 18 miles west of Port-au-Prince. More than 200,000 people died in the earthquake and its aftermath – the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. It was a defining moment for Haiti and for Hôpital Sacré Coeur.
In the days and weeks following the earthquake, hundreds upon hundreds of grievously injured victims came to our hospital for care that was unavailable anywhere else in Haiti. As a result, Hôpital Sacré Coeur surged from 72 inpatient beds to more than 400. And with the victims came an army of selfless, dedicated volunteers.
The earthquake brought out the best of Hôpital Sacré Coeur and we are a stronger hospital because it.
But there was a price to pay for the good work that was done here – day and night, month upon month. In the end, it was a price we could not afford. We had done much more in the response than was financially prudent for a hospital of our size. And by March, 2012 both The CRUDEM Foundation and Hôpital Sacré Coeur were essentially insolvent. It might have all ended there but for the generosity and leadership of the Holy Name Medical Center, which stepped into the breach, along with other faithful donors, to fund the foundation through the worst of it and save Hôpital Sacré Coeur.
Today, Hôpital Sacré Coeur is a different place – a larger place, a busier place, a better place – than it was prior to the earthquake. And if 2013 was any indication, 2014 will mark the revitalization of our hospital.
The following statistics provide some sense of the level of activity at Hôpital Sacré Coeur during 2013:
49,743 outpatient visits
5,906 patients admitted
1,236 babies delivered
1,956 surgical procedures
119,076 laboratory test performed
2,966 X-rays processed
11,143 patients tested for HIV
178 children treated as inpatients for severe malnutrition
And these numbers do not reflect the excellent work of Hôpital Sacré Coeur’s community health program, which has made meaningful, sustainable contributions throughout the region on everything from prenatal care to end-of-life support and from nutrition counseling to cholera control.
I am proud of the effort my colleagues at Hôpital Sacré Coeur make every day to care for all those in need who pass through our gates or otherwise seek our help, but much more needs to be done to ensure we keep the promise made almost 30 years ago to the people of northern Haiti. Manifest in their words and, more importantly, in their actions, Brother Yves and Dr. Dubuque promised all who came to Hôpital Sacré Coeur that our hospital would be a center of medical excellence – a model for Haiti.
The scarcity of resources we encounter everyday and the challenges inherent in our environment make this a difficult promise to keep. But with your prayers and generous support, we continue to do just that.
Our ability to fulfill our mission – and keep Brother Yves and Dr. Dubuque’s promise – is dependent on the professionalism of our staff and the quality of our infrastructure. Thanks to the leadership of Holy Name Medical Center, its president, Mike Maron, and the generous support of our donors, Hôpital Sacré Coeur is making meaningful advances in both areas.
As I noted in my last letter in Bon Nouvèl, recruitment and retention of talent is a major priority for me. The following bio-sketches are representative of the progress we are making in recruiting and retaining key employees:
Laybone Lovely trained as a Registered Nurse at the National School of Nursing at Our Lady of Wisdom University (EINDS) in Cap-Haitien.In October 2005, Ms. Laybone was hired by Hôpital Sacré Coeur as a nurse assigned to the internal medicine and surgery services. In 2009, she was appointed a nurse supervisor for those services.
Throughout her tenure at Hôpital Sacré Coeur, Miss Laybone has been among the hospital’s most dedicated employees. In recognition of the steadily increasing volume of orthopedic surgical procedures performed at Hôpital Sacré Coeur, the Orthopedic Nursing Service was established in late 2012 and Miss Laybone was appointed its first chief shortly thereafter.
Ms. Laybone is a good nurse and a fine leader. She and employees like her are the reason I am so focused on developing programs aimed at retaining key staff for our hospital.
A substantial percentage of the cases seen in the Emergency Department at Hôpital Sacré Coeur require orthopedic interventions, including very specialized surgical procedures. Until recently, these cases were handled by one of the hospital’s general surgeons or our Chief Medical Officer, who is an orthopedic surgeon. But as the need for orthopedic surgery continued to grow, it became apparent that the hospital needed a dedicated full time orthopedist on staff.
Thanks to a generous gift from several medical volunteers, Hôpital Sacré Coeur was able to fund a full time position for a staff orthopedic surgeon. After an extensive recruitment process, Dr. Jacky Jean of Port-au-Prince was selected for this new position.
He is a graduate of the Medicine and Pharmacy Faculty at the State University of Haiti in Port-au-Prince. Following a social service internship in Cap-Haitien, Dr. Jacky returned to the State University of Haiti for his residency orthopedic trauma care. In his brief time with us, Dr. Jacky has become an invaluable resource for the hospital and the community we serve.
Dr. Reinaldo Gomez Piñero joined Hôpital Sacré Coeur in the spring of 2013 to lead the hospital’s intensive care unit. Dr. Reinaldo has more than 22 years experience in internal medicine, intensive care and clinical cardiology. Originally from Villa Clara, Cuba, Dr. Reinaldo earned his medical degree from University Hospital Placetas in Santa Clara and an advanced degree in cardiology from the same institution. He came to Haiti as part of the international response to the 2010 earthquake.
Dr. Reinaldo served on the medical staff at University Hospital La Paix in Port-au-Prince, where he distinguished himself caring for the victims of the earthquake. Dr. Reinaldo has already made a number of important contributions to the improvement of patient care at Hôpital Sacré Coeur. In addition to his clinical duties, Dr. Reinald serves on the hospital’s therapeutic committee. He is currently working on a strategic plan to make our intensive care unit the finest in all of Haiti. He is an excellent colleague and a tireless worker. Cuba’s loss is definitely our gain.
Thanks to Holy Name Medical Center, Hôpital Sacré Coeur now has excellent internet connectivity and a fully developed WiFi network. Key functions of the hospital have new computers and are now online. To support this new infrastructure, the position of Information Technology/Network Administrator was created. After interviewing a number of candidates, Emmanuel Jeannite of Cap-Haitien was appointed to this new position.
Mr. Jeannite is a recent graduate of the Canado-Haitian College in Port-au-Prince, an institution, like Hôpital Sacré Coeur, founded by the Montreal Province of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. He is a technically skilled and personally motivated individual.
He has an excellent work ethic and is committed to our mission. Mr. Jeannite is an important addition to Hôpital Sacré Coeur. We are, indeed, lucky to have him with us.
While meaningful, enduring progress is being made on the recruitment and retention of key talent at the hospital, we have not lost sight of the need to improve patient care infrastructure.
Clinics facilities at Hôpital Sacré Coeur have long been insufficient to meet the needs of the nearly 50,000 outpatient visits that occur here each year. Thanks to the exceptional generosity of Robert P. and Mary Evans and the support of several organizations, including the Japanese International Development Agency, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Catholic Medical Mission Board, the new consolidated clinics building is nearly a reality.
The structure is complete and work is now underway to outfit it with suitable equipment.
It is difficult to overstate the impact this new facility will have on the quality of care at Hôpital Sacré Coeur.
The military surplus tent that currently houses our outpatient clinic and its rudimentary exam rooms will be replaced by a state-of-the-art facility. Once operational, all outpatient visits and Emergency Department care will take place in the new building. It is something we have dreamed about for years. If the schedule holds, I expect that the new building we be operational early this spring.
In 1942, Pope Pius XII designated Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) Patroness of Haiti. Since then – and from time immemorial – Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours has been an important influence on life in this country. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI invoked Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in his prayers to ease the suffering and aid the relief effort in the aftermath of the earthquake. At the request of the Evans family and with the support of the hospital community, the new clinics building will be dedicated to Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours.
It will be a happy day for all of us at Hôpital Sacré Coeur – and bring much comfort to our patients – when the beautiful icon of Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours is placed at the entrance of our new consolidated clinics building.
Hôpital Sacré Coeur is well on the road to recovering from the great earthquake of 2010, but there is much more to be done if our hospital is to continue the everyday Works of Corporal Mercy that have defined this institution for nearly 30 years. The fact is that we need your help now more than ever. Record numbers of patients mean record costs. We turn no one in need away and that is expensive – very expensive.Today, Hôpital Sacré Coeur runs at a deficit – some $80,000 a month. But if each one of our faithful supporters recruited just three new donors, our deficit would be a thing of the past. I ask each of you to do just this in 2014. It will make a world of difference in the daily life of our hospital.
On behalf of the 350 employees of Hôpital Sacré Coeur and the people we serve, I want to thank you for your support. May God bless you and reward you for your generosity.
Harold Prévil, M.D., M.P.H.