Hospitals in Haiti? Hard or just Hell?

Posted: 14 August 2015 in Haiti, Understanding Others
Tags: ,

Hosp Maternity

New job working with a hospital in Haiti? And for less money than before? You’ve marbles you think.

No- it’s not like that. Inevitably we all have our stereotypes. Warm beer, cricket, and old maids cycling off to Evensong are some sepia tinted images of England. Haiti conjures up – what? Poverty, corruption, voodoo, Papa Doc Duvalier & Baby Doc, 2010 earthquake? Like the warm beer and cricket, there is a smidgen of truth. If you’ve got this far, you’ll have a taste for more than a smidgen.

I am working with Hospital Convention Baptiste d’Haiti (HCBH) to develop its management information systems. The hospital has around 120 beds and provides maternity & paediatric services, basic surgery and emergency care, a rehabilitation respite care unit, rehab sports centre, cholera isolation unit and community health. People from the Sports Centre compete in parasports (disability sports), and represent Haiti at an international level.

The Hospital is a well run place just outside Cap-Haitien, the country’s second city. It is part of wide ranging provision of the Convention Baptiste d’Haiti, alongside schools and colleges.

Yet the cloud of clichés darken the scene

  • Haiti is not destitute, but just poor. According to the World Bank in 2014 it has the same GNP per capita (US$1750 purchase power parity) as Uganda, where I used to work.  But inequality is a lot higher (Gini coefficient: Haiti 59, Uganda 44, UK 36).  So HCBH finds plenty of people who stagger in to the Hospital penniless, alongside those who can afford the modest fees.
  • The Hospital has trustworthy and fiscally prudent staff.  Yet the stink of corruption smelt elsewhere in the land means that this hospital has to be not only whiter than white – it has to clearly demonstrate in reports that it is so – – – that is where I come it.
  • Haiti gets quite a bit of foreign aid, and a lot of busy bodies to help it along.  It is reported that Haiti has more NGOs per million than any other country it the world.  No wonder we in this hospital and in this city have to work hard not to be seen as another bunch of development junkies gadding about in their 4WDs.  (My first trip in Haiti was in the back of a lorry: no seats, sides nor roof- really air conditioned.)
  • Voodoo and traditional ways of seeking medic acre still hold esteem. Nevertheless, that does not prevent the Hospital taking modern health care out to the hills via its Community Health activities. Nor does it prevent the teams from collaborating with traditional birth attendants.

The stereotypes are just a briefest of starting points on the way to discovery. Some points on the way will have similarities I found when I was in Nepal, India or Uganda. But there’ll be some interesting differences too. Either way, the point will be to understand, so to make one’s efforts more effective – so that others may live and not die.



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