Thursday, June 30, 2011

For those of you asking me about signs of progress

Many of you have asked me if there has been any progress in Haiti since the earthquake. I can say with certainty that there has been progress in Physical Therapy at Hospital Albert Schweitzer. When I came here in 2000, the space allotted to PT was a small corner spot in the Nursing Director’s office. Over the next few years, PT gained a closet to hold supplies and a moveable table that was placed out on the porch to see out-patients. Then, in the summer of 2009 there was finally an actual room for Physical Therapy. Now 2 years later, there is an even larger space that has been divided off from the courtyard and includes a storage area for supplies.

In 2000, I was asked to bring crutches and did so in 11 long boxes. During the next few years, the people at HAS made due with a number of different experiments in crutch provision including some bulky wooden ones made on site, forearm crutches rather than axillary (very hard for fracture patients to use), and many times crutches were in very short supply. When I was here 6 weeks after the earthquake, we had to put together mismatched pairs to send the patients home. Now the storage room holds many pairs of new crutches, both wooden and aluminum still in the packaging.

The storeroom also holds many other supplies that in the past were donated periodically, then would run out. There are extra wheelchairs--one of the hardest items to find for a patient 10 years ago.

So all the international attention has done some good. There is physical evidence of progress in place.

The most important progress, though, is in the staff. In 2000, there was one part time volunteer Swiss Physical Therapist here, along with her husband who was on the staff as a pediatrician. Before she left, she trained Mary Jane Carraway, an American RN and also a volunteer, to do basic physical therapy treatments. For many years, Mary Jane did an excellent job of providing access to basic physical therapy care, along with the help of visiting volunteer PT’s. Before Mary Jane left, she trained 2 Haitian RN’s to take over the Physical Therapy service and they did so until 2009. In January, 2009, the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program that had formerly been in Port-au-Prince moved to Hospital Albert Schweitzer. Then in the fall of 2009, a Haitian Physical Therapist was hired to run the Physical Therapy service. Finally! Physical Therapy had officially arrived at HAS. In January, 2010, 3 of the Rehabilitation Technician graduates also joined the staff, just in time for the earthquake. Today the Haitian Physical Therapist Director of the Dept. continues to work with a staff of 3 techs and many visiting PT’s teaching in the Rehab Tech training program.

The resources that many of you have given have been put to good use. There can be progress in Haiti.

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