One of the most challenging aspects of bringing medical technology to Haiti has been to find a way to keep this entire array of sophisticated equipment running.
This is a country of diminished resources, both technical and physical. Recently, when one of our x-ray machines went down, it took several months to secure replacement parts, get them shipped and through Customs, and then finally installed. What in the States might take several days of coordination and repair, in Haiti is an unspecified amount of time rife with unanticipated barriers. The saying, “for want of a nail, a kingdom lost” is more than an axiom in Haiti. And because of the uniqueness of each piece of medical equipment, it is impossible to stock enough spare parts to assure a smooth and expeditious repair when trouble strikes.
Various initiatives have been implemented though to find ways to improve upon the maintenance and repair of these delicate, but essential systems.
For instance, we have just completed a three year effort to upgrade our primary electrical power and distribution grid. The area’s primary source of electricity comes from Cap Haitian, approximately 12 miles to the north of Milot. Electric power is rationed and its production is erratic in this area and therefore, an unreliable source. For approximately 20 years now, Sacré Coeur has had to rely upon generating its own source of power. The improved system just completed can reliably handle all of the hospital’s needs and we have included a solar component to “belt and suspender” the realities of our location.
The regularity of clean power assures the basic need for a voltage consistent with the rudiments of our medical equipment. In most areas of Haiti, hospitals cannot make that claim.
Having addressed the power source, we turned our attention to selecting, then training three young Haitian men (featured in the Fall 2012 issue of Bon Nouvèl) as biotech troubleshooters. The lack of an accredited biotech engineering program required CRUDEM to work with various NGOs like the TriMedx Foundation and Rotary Club International, who sponsored various eight week programs to build medical technology maintenance and repair programs in Haiti. Although these efforts have only touched the surface of this complex field, they have been a Godsend for creating some basic knowledge and structures for the establishment of our ongoing effort to assemble a self-developing, sustainable network of professional technicians at the hospital.
In accordance with these efforts, Holy Name Medical Center under the guidance of Mr. Jim Bishoff, Director of Clinical Engineering Services, continues to organize and teach specific parameters for the current medical equipment utilized at Sacré Coeur.
He also has been the impetus for erecting a new biotech lab and repair center located at the Annex facility directly across from the hospital. This facility is nearing completion and is expected to address future medical technology as it becomes available to Hôpital Sacré Coeur.