By Jennifer Browning
Today was a monumental day of sorts as Drs. Marlon and Jerry Bitar, owners of Bernard Mevs Hospital; Dr. Arthur Founier, co-founder of Project Medishare; and Dr. Michel Dodard, Director of the Global Institute, addressed the current Bernard Mevs staff that will be working with Project Medishare’s medical volunteers.
“Project Medishare’s first meeting was here in 1994 at Bernard Mevs,” Dr. Fournier said. “We have now come full circle.”
Project Medishare began in 1994 and brought down, Dan Kairys, the first medical student in 1995. Kairys was a first year medical student at Dartmouth, but was working in South Florida with Dr. Fournier. Back then, Project Medishare used to work primary care at Bernard Mevs and visited orphanages in Port-au-Prince.
Eventually Project Medishare started bringing medical mission trips to Haiti’s Central Plateau, the poorest region of Haiti.
In 2003, The Green Family Foundation funded a joint project of the University of Miami Pediatrics Department and Project Medishare. Project Medishare began a donor-funded Community Health Program in the community of Thomonde in the Central Plateau of Haiti, which now provides access to health care services for over 100,000 living in the district of Thomonde, and the surrounding areas of Marmont and Casse. Today, over 100 Haitian doctors, nurses, health agents, mid wives, lab and pharmacy technicians and administrative staff have achieved amazing feats such as increased the number of pre-natal visits for pregnant women from no pre-natal visits to an average of three visits for each woman, and decreased mortality among the population from 698 deaths in the first year of the program to 483 in the third year.
Project Medishare continued efforts in Port-au-Prince through specialty surgery programs such as the Pediatric Neurosurgery Program, which focused on children with hydrocephalus, and the Plastic Surgery Program, which focuses on children with cleft-lip and cleft-palates.
It was the years of working with the people and the Ministry of Health in Haiti that allowed Project Medishare to respond so quickly to the country’s urgent needs after the January 12 earthquake. Such relationships are what has allowed Project Medishare to bring volunteers to Haiti to provide healthcare this tiny Caribbean country needed.
While there is still a long road ahead, for Dr. Fournier, there has been a small victory achieved in providing the Haitian people access to healthcare.
“There is truth in the old Haitian proverb: Ak pasiens n’ap triomphe,”
Dr. Fournier said. “With patience we will triumph.”
And patience will continue to be an important factor, especially today as volunteers and staff work to transition into Bernard Mevs.
After the meeting with the joint medical staff, the atmosphere was chaotic. There were boxes of supplies to sort through, generators to move in and put in place, and patients to care for, and so in a way, business continued as usual.
Today, the staff was greeted with a line of people waiting to see a doctor, and surgeries continued on schedule.
“We had a large number to come in for outpatients services, we were happy to see that people could find the new hospital so that they could continue to get treated,” Alyson Cavanaugh, a physical therapist from San Diego said. “It was amazing there was a line of people, but we were able to work with the doctors to make sure everyone was seen. “
Cavanaugh said that while the transition has been a little hectic, she could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“In patient wise, everything is getting more organized,” she said. “The units are getting set up with everything they need. It is starting to look like a real hospital.”