Since the beginning of post-earthquake recovery effort, the United Nations has provided logistical support for patient evacuation and the delivery of essential medicines and materials. HAS’ efforts to get replacement supplies during the first weeks were somewhat convoluted, involving the arrival of samll planes onto grass airfields about 4 hours north of Deschapelles, or land transport through the Dominican Republic. One of our suppliers, Direct Relief International, had a large shipment of materials for HAS today and requested a helicopter airlift from the Ukrainian squadron.
The sound of the helicopter’s engine brought a quick end to the day’s schedule at all of the local schools, and the soccer field was surrounded by young people who were astounded at the huge machine, and who then were shocked by the clouds of dust as the helicopter landed.
The large yellow school bus, which has been our workhorse vehicle for transporting materials to the hospital. was backed up to the back of the helicopter and a group of volunteers transferred the boxes from the helicopter. Several volunteers from Thailand who were working with the World Food Program hopped a ride on the helicopter, and took advantage of the photo op with all of the kids who were lining the soccer field. In about 15 minutes the aircraft was unloaded, and took off in another dust storm, and all of the kids went home for lunch, having witnessed a piece of history which will not show up in their textbooks.
The materials which were delivered by the helicopter came from a shopping list which was part of a complex supply chain for HAS which has been maintained by Nellie Player working from her home in Pittsurgh. Lists of needs from the hospital, which changed almost hourly in the first weeks after the quake, were matched with list of donated goods which were offered from a variety of agencies, and also with the list of volunteer air flights, to come up with a timely delivery to HAS. Today’s shipment as a first, as a helicopter delivery by the United Nations, and it has opened a door for further deliveries in the future.
The hospital used almost three month’s supply of medications and surgical materials in the first ten days after the quake, and it has been a challenge to get back up to a full stock. After the initial flood of patients directly from the quake zone, HAS is now receiving referrals of patients which have received primary care at tent hospitals in the capital, but who require more advanced surgical intervention. A series of one-week rotations of surgeons, primarily orthopods, has responded to these requests, and has been able to stay current with this increased demand. Attlanta’s Peachtree Orthopedic group sent down two teams, the second of which is here this week, and they have done a good job of reducing our stocks again.