Haiti Hospital Waits for Patients Following Quake

Haiti Hospital Waits for Patients Following Quake

At a hospital in the Haitian town of Milot, about 70 miles north of the devastation in Port-au-Prince, a team of doctors waits.

Patients numbering in the dozens have trickled into the Hopital Sacre Coeur since last week's magnitude 7.0 earthquake. The hospital, with its 73 beds, is the largest private medical facility in northeastern Haiti.

VIDEO: Volunteer Tim Traynor discusses delays in moving Haitis wounded to hospitals.

After the quake, hospital officials naturally anticipated they would be receiving patients. This past weekend, a seven-member surgical team that had arrived from the United States was joined by six more orthopedic surgeons. The hospital commandeered two schools and turned them into makeshift hospitals. And even on Monday, they continued to enhance their capacity with a mobile clinic and other unusual measures.

But according to those staffing the hospital, as late as this past weekend their resources had been drastically underutilized.

"My staff and I were getting the hospital ready, but nothing came," said Dr. Daniel Burzon, a surgeon from Ocean Medical Center and Jersey Shore University Medical Center in New Jersey. Burzon has been coming to Haiti for 11 years through CRUDEM, the Massachusetts-based charitable organization that runs Hopital Sacre Coeur.

Burzon, who has since returned to the United States, said that on Friday the hospital had been informed that it would be receiving dozens of patients in need of immediate care. But those patients never came.

"We were expecting 30," he said. "We got four."

In some ways, Sacre Coeur's situation may reflect the logistical difficulties of triage and treatment in the midst of one of the worst natural disasters to strike anywhere on the globe in recent memory.

Tom Arnold, chief executive of Concern Worldwide, an international relief and development agency that has been working in Haiti since 1994, said that while his organization and others are working together to coordinate the distribution of water, food and shelter to those affected, many wounded are not able to get the medical attention they need.

Medical Services Decimated in Port-au-Prince

"There is a real problem in that some of the main hospitals have been destroyed," said Arnold, who is currently in Haiti. "Obviously a lot of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have been lost. There is a need to get that sector up and going; basic medicine needs to be brought into play."

And bringing Sacre Coeur into the life-saving game may be tougher than it sounds. While Milot may be relatively close to Port-au-Prince, the journey by car is known to take seven hours -- and that was before the earthquake rendered many roads impassable.

So at the hospital in Milot, the doctors wait.

"Our surgeons have begun to speculate on the numbers of people languishing in Port-au-Prince that have perished since the last and only flight came to Milot," Tim Traynor, a CRUDEM volunteer at Sacre Coeur, wrote in an email back to the organization on Saturday.

"When we hear a chopper in the distance, we all run to the landing field like shipwrecked sailors hoping that it will land and bring us someone to save," he wrote. "We pray, we wait, we do everything in preparation over and over again, and no one seems to be listening.

"Around the edges of our hearts, we even wonder if anyone cares."

Saving Lives, Despite a Disaster

Despite being farther from the epicenter of last week's quake than Port-au-Prince, Sacre Coeur was not unaffected.

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