[quote]At Haiti's main hospital, the poor await care with bibles and prayers
Wed Mar 2,12:23 PM ET Health - AFP
PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) - Haiti's University Hospital is the country's biggest, but its condition -- like many of its patients -- is past critical: It lacks doctors, pregnant teens in labor lean against its walls, there are no drugs and the sick pray for deliverance.
Dozens of ailing Haitians seek sanctuary within the 700-bed hospital's decrepit walls, often clutching bibles and praying aloud to God. Even one of the few doctor's still toiling here says the prognosis for the hospital is "somber."
"The situation is catastrophic. In medical terms, the prognosis is somber," the only medical resident for internal medicine told AFP.
The young doctor, who asked not to be identified, earns 171 dollars a month, but he has not been paid for five months.
The majority of the hospital's 12 resident doctors have left the hospital.
The Haitian capital has a private medical center, but its healthcare is well beyond the reach of most Haitians, who represent the Americas poorest people.
"Patients arrive in their final stage, because to see a doctor is a luxury. And when they do come, it's already too late," the doctor says, his voice almost drowned out by the cries of a diabetic patient.
The hospital laboratory is padlocked shut, nobody knows by whom, and the patient cannot be given a blood-sugar test to evaluate her diabetic condition.
Several of the woman's relatives surround her trying to cool her down by waving pieces of cardboard amid the hospital's overpowering odor of sweat and urine.
"There is no medicine. The equipment is always breaking and no one comes to fix it. Haitians overseas have sent donations to help, but they are being held up at customs due to bureaucracy," the doctor said.
Haitians have to pay 70 cents to attend a public hospital and then, if they are among the lucky ones to receive treatment, make a further payment for any drugs. It is left to family and friends to bring the ill soap and food.
"If you need to take an electrocardiogram in this country, you can't," says Carlos Bedjan, the chief doctor with an Argentine medical team here which treats members of the United Nations (news - web sites)' stabilization force stationed in this Caribbean island state.
Many of the critically ill who come to the hospital, explains the Haitian doctor, have to wait at least two weeks before they can pass into the internal medicine ward, which only has 96 beds, if they do not die beforehand.
Another doctor, a pediatric specialist, who also requested anonymity, says he will never forget the start of 2005.
He recalled admitting a 38-year-old woman to the hospital on January 1. The woman was pregnant with her first child, but the baby died because the hospital had no oxygen for her.
Even cheap medical supplies like protective gloves are lacking.
"It frustrates me greatly. We've lost children several times. The parents can't afford antibiotics," the doctor explains, standing among small cots holding sick infants, many of them in dirty conditions, watched over by their mothers in silence.
The lack of healthcare ripples beyond the hospital's walls: The average life expectancy in Haiti is 49. At least three quarters of its eight million people live under the UN's poverty line on less than two dollars a day. Some 30,000 Haitian children die every year.
"In Haiti there is no healthcare. If you go to hospital here it's a waste of time. There are no doctors and the hospitals are always on strike," complained Brinel Milieu, a 42-year-old potter.
Haiti's insecurity has also endangered the life of patients and the unwell, according to hospital workers.
Employees have often had to sleep in the hospital or remain at home due to outbreaks of violent unrest. Just three days ago shots rang out near the maternity ward.
The pediatric doctor said he had treated at least ten babies with tetanus since September, some of whom had died because their mothers had to give birth in insanitary conditions at home due to unrest in the streets.
"The infections are terrible in Bel Air, the Village of Dieu and Cite Soleil," he said, referring to the capital's most deprived neighborhoods.
"We have received children already dead. It's not a pretty picture. It's sad," he adds.[/quote]
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