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Medical Report From Haiti

January 19, 2009


The Israeli medical group arrived in Haiti three days ago and built the field hospital from scratch in a soccer stadium. Until this morning they did not have any local infrastructure, such as running water or washrooms. They worked for 36 hours non-stop, operating on more than 70 people (not counting endless small treatments and procedures they do not have records for). As of this morning, they can have showers under running water instead of using three large bottles per person for shower.

The numbers of injured and sick people are overwhelming; it appears that no change is around the corner. American physicians and nurses help in the Israeli hospital. An American nurse who has been living in Haiti for years serves as a translator, because language differences pose a major problem. (Imagine a situation where a physician or a nurse tries to take vital signs from patients and cannot communicate with them.)

Most of the ER work is done at night, while operations are performed during the day. The weather has been favorable so far, although it’s very hot (80s during the day) and humid (80%). The only air conditioner is in the operating room.

Hadassah is an important part of the overall Israeli effort. Our personnel are expert, caring—and resourceful. The hospital ran out of screws (that are screwed into bone) for external reinforcement structures for limb fractures. Reuven Gelfond, the OR nurse from Hadassah Mt. Scopus, found a local factory where he had them create screws out of regular bald nails.

This report comes from Dr. Taras Shirov, one of Hadassah’s physicians in Haiti. Dr. Shirov is an anesthesiologist and an orthopedic surgeon. He works there in both capacities – running back and forth between the anesthesia machines and the operating table.


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