MSF: Haitians need better access to health care

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 55, No. 2, March 2013, Page 76 News

Three years after the 2010 earthquake, the Haitian health care system is still devastated. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to manage four hospitals built to replace temporary structures set up after the earthquake. Tens of thousands of Haitians benefit from free, high-quality care at these facilities, but Haitian authorities are unlikely to take over the administration of the hospitals from MSF in the foreseeable future. 

The inadequate response to the cholera epidemic—the other catastrophe that struck Haiti in 2010—demonstrates the delays in the health system’s recovery. Haiti has experienced recurring outbreaks of the disease since that time. During 2012, more than 22900 cholera victims received care in MSF’s cholera treatment centres in Port-au-Prince and Léogâne. The number of cases increased after Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy last fall, when rains caused open sewers to overflow and led to the spread of the bacteria that causes the disease. Despite the recent drop in the number of cases, as of late 2012, MSF was still treating more than 500 cases each week.

Léogâne, the city closest to the earthquake’s epicentre—much of which was destroyed by the quake—today resembles a huge construction zone. Most of the people who survived have been re-housed, but the MSF hospital is still the only facility in the region offering free, 24-hour care.

Although MSF’s goal is to hand over health care facility administration to the Ministry of Public Health in Léogâne, the hospital is drawing increasing numbers of patients. The hospital fills a gap that existed well before the earthquake—most Haitians did not have access to medical care before 12 January 2010, whether because of a lack of available services or lack of money. While MSF arrived in Haiti in response to the catastrophe—intending to stay until reconstruction could get underway—3 years later almost nothing has changed in terms of access to care.

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. MSF: Haitians need better access to health care. BCMJ, Vol. 55, No. 2, March, 2013, Page(s) 76 - News.

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