A few weeks ago, we wrote about how we prepare for the public health challenges, such as cholera and acute malnutrition cases, that often accompany the summer rainy season. A key part of this preparation is emphasizing interdepartmental coordination, to ensure that we are well-staffed and well-stocked with vital medications and supplies in the event of an emergency. An outbreak of cholera, a highly contagious waterborne disease that can kill within hours if not properly treated, requires our doctors and staff to be especially swift and coordinated, as they fight to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.
Last Friday morning was a perfect example of how advance preparation saves lives, when we were informed that our clinic at Bastien, one of the remote mountain communities served by HAS, had seen ten cases of cholera in the span of just 36 hours. This sudden increase triggered the clinic staff at Bastien to communicate the news to HAS hospital and community services leaders. The directors of our Internal Medicine and Integrated Community Services departments then teamed up to inform Ministry of Health officials and healthcare facilities in our service area about the situation. Ensuring an accurate and complete chain of communication is a crucial component of our official role in stabilizing and referring cholera patients to Ministry of Health-run cholera treatment centers. Dr. Mésidort, the coordinator for the communal sections in our service area, and Dr. Racine, the head of the cholera program at the Department of Health of the Artibonite region, were particularly helpful in this critical task, providing us with information and offering supplies for treating patients at our health clinic in Bastien. HAS also assisted the doctors in transporting materials and staff to their cholera treatment post in Barbe, an extremely remote and mountainous area that has since been sourced as the center of this recent outbreak. Meanwhile, HAS ensured a full stock of oral rehydration salts, IV fluids, and antibiotics, and created an updated emergency plan to prepare staff for the possibility of a more widespread increase.
All of our preparations and on-the-ground efforts have so far paid off. HAS managed this cholera resurgence without running out of necessary supplies and medications, and without losing any lives at our clinics because of delays in care. We kept the Bastien clinic (normally open Monday through Friday) in operation over the weekend, and coordinated with other facilities in our service area, particularly the cholera treatment center in the larger town of Verrettes, where we refer stabilized patients for full treatment. We have assigned additional staff to our clinics, and plan to keep the clinics’ doors open as needed. In the Bastien area, we continue to receive approximately 10 new cholera patients per day, and have been able to provide all these new patients with the life-saving care they need.
We are proud to report HAS’s latest success story, one in which coordination—internally, among our own staff, and externally, by collaborating quickly and efficiently with outside organizations—is saving lives. However, our work at HAS is never finished, and we fear with the rest of the world that cholera may be a permanent threat to the people of Haiti. Although this recent outbreak of cholera has remained localized, we are still on watch and prepared for future spikes in our service region. Our mission is to collaborate with the people of the Artibonite Valley to improve their health and quality of life; HAS is vigilant in monitoring local public health conditions and, through careful coordination and emergency planning, is ready to fulfill this mission when and where we are needed most.
For timely updates on cholera, malnutrition, and a host of other healthcare challenges facing the people we serve, check in with us often on Facebook (www.facebook.com/hashaiti.org) and Twitter (@HASHaiti).