By Sophia Chin
Today’s adventure was to Mirebalais, Haiti to visit the Hopital Universitaire de Mirebalais, or University Hospital for short. The hospital opened in 2013 founded by Partners In Health (PIH), a nongovernmental organization seeking to put into practice the conviction that healthcare is a human right. In Haiti, the woman is the pillar of the family otherwise known as poto mitan. If the mother’s health deteriorates, the rest of the family suffers considerably. Since the maternal mortality rate is significantly higher in Haiti than any other western country, PIH directs resources and efforts toward improving the health status of women.
We started off early at six in the morning and headed up the Haitian mountainside for close to two hours. Immediately upon arrival, we were awe struck by the serene atmosphere, splashes of colorful mosaics and artwork paired with the lush greenery scattered throughout the open hospital setting. We were greeted by our host, the administrator of Graduate Medical Education and Research for the hospital, who is involved in several projects in Haiti including directing and managing the educational program at the hospital. It was eye opening to learn all the in’s and out’s of operating a 300-bed hospital while in the process of acquiring international accreditation – all without accepting payments from patients. As a donor and grant based hospital, patients who came to the hospital paid a flat fee of $2, which included a hospital card and medical record. The patients received food, medications, as well as a separate hygiene and sanitation unit for families of extended care patients.
During our tour, we saw outpatient centers for men, women and children, a new oncology unit, NICU/PICU, a community and immunization center, rehabilitation center, and even a helipad for mass casualties. There was also a facility dedicated to mothers in waiting to deliver called Kay Mamito created specifically for those who traveled from afar. One of the most impressive (and coolest in temperature) spaces in the hospital was the new lab, which was just inaugurated last month. The lab consisted of a clinical lab, microbiology and pathology, gene expert technology as well as a brand new biosafety TB lab due to open in September of this year. Although rapid tests for HIV, malaria and syphilis are done at the lab, tests for urine and blood will start being tested starting in December. In the meantime, cultures and tests are sent to a private or a national lab in Haiti and some are even sent to the U.S. with delayed and long turnaround times for results. As the director of the lab stated, more work for construction and quality improvement is to come, but her determination to get things done as beyond admirable.
We wrapped up the day with a visit to an artistic village consisting of ornate metalwork crafted by all the locals living in the village. This handy craftwork has been passed down from generation to generation, which showed in the extensive detailed works of art polished off with shiny varnish. Everyone in our group left the village with unique souvenirs for our loved ones and homes. With so much new insight from just one day, we simply cannot wait to see what more Haiti has to offer in the days to come.