University Hospital Cares for Haiti's First COVID-19 Patients

Posted on Mar 27, 2020

University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti
University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, is the first Partners In Health-supported facility to provide direct care for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. Photo by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health

Haiti very often has been the first country where Partners In Health operates to try a new course of action, whether it is a new HIV medication, TB protocol, or community health worker training.

On March 20, this rang true once again.

That morning was when Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Zanmi Lasante, as PIH is known in Haiti, received the country’s first two patients who were positive for COVID-19. Since then, three more people with positive tests have come to the isolation ward at University Hospital of Mirebalais for treatment and care. Clinicians are also supporting people associated with those confirmed patients, by providing a safe, private space for them to be quarantined and monitored for signs of the disease.

Six doctors and nine nurses at University Hospital—which is internationally accredited and PIH’s flagship facility in Haiti—are working around the clock to provide effective, efficient, and patient-centered care, while ensuring the safety of patients and caregivers. There are concerns for what is to come, but the team has pulled together incredibly during this stressful time.

No other PIH-supported facilities, across the other 10 countries where PIH works, are currently providing direct care to patients who have tested positive for the new coronavirus. But all are collaborating with national and local governments to prepare to test, treat, and trace contacts, while continuing to collaborate with colleagues across all ministries of health.

Responding to COVID-19 in Haiti requires extraordinary efforts, with a team approach that includes dedicated cleaning crews, and hard-working logistical staff who are ordering necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), medications, and other supplies required to run an isolation ward.

But it is not a new effort—the Haiti team has been here before.

The 2010 cholera outbreak that killed more than 10,000 people in Haiti and inflicted suffering on more than 1 million is still fresh in the minds of Zanmi Lasante staff. Many of these same staff members also answered the call to support PIH’s Ebola response in West Africa in 2015.

Today, they face the challenges of COVID-19. They are the frontline of care and support for those receiving treatment now, and for those who will be affected by this novel coronavirus in weeks and potentially months to come. 

Today, tomorrow, and every day after, the Zanmi Lasante team will work together to take on this battle. Haitian health care workers at University Hospital and beyond will do whatever it takes. And the global PIH network will be there, as well, at our patients’ sides for this fight.

This article was written by Elizabeth Campa, senior health and policy officer and chief of staff for Executive Director Loune Viaud for Zanmi Lasante, as Partners In Health is known in Haiti. She has worked for the organization since 2013, and is a second-year graduate student at Harvard Medical School’s department of Global Health and Social Medicine.

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