Canadian initiative helps strengthen emergency care in Haiti

Picture a hospital. Ambulances race into the ER, doctors perform life-saving surgery, nurses wrap casts and machines beep. Now imagine if the hospital had nothing but bare walls and a ceiling. How do you turn this space into a hospital with trained staff, modern infrastructure, adequate supplies, functioning equipment and organized storage – not to mention the ability to provide other amenities?

Facilities like La Paix hospital in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince continue to tackle issues like these after a devastating earthquake hit the country over two years ago. While it’s difficult for a poor, publicly-funded hospital such as La Paix to rebuild facilities and meet patient needs, programs, including , International Outreach are there to help.

The is a part of St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS), an organization based in Hamilton, Ontario, which is made up of six member hospitals. The SJHS Group Purchasing Organization (SJHS-GPO), a national leader in capital equipment and food procurement for hospitals in partnership with , plays a key role in the work of the program.

An outreach team headed to Haiti in late March to continue rebuilding efforts at La Paix following the earthquake. This particular trip focused on establishing a 24-hour emergency room. It’s a part of an on-going, committed effort to build capacity within a health system with little or no modern infrastructure.

“We’ve been active in Haiti for over 20 years,” says SJHS-GPO’s Jay Ayres, himself a member of the outreach team. “We’ve accomplished so much in that time – and since the earthquake, there continues to be critical work that we need to do. We’re excited to get back on the ground and help La Paix build more capacity to serve the urgent and growing health needs of Haitians.”

Nurses and physicians from SJHS have put together a list of needs for the hospital’s new emergency room – from supplies, equipment and tools, to clinical processes and the necessary training for patient care providers. The team will work hard to put these items into practice during the mission.

To prepare for the trip, the team has also guided groups of Haitian health care providers from La Paix on tours of emergency facilities at SJHS. This way, the front-line care providers can see and more easily understand how high-functioning emergency rooms operate. A group of nurses from SJHS will also join the mission to provide further education and training to workers.

When it comes to supplies and equipment for the new emergency room, Hill-Rom Canada has generously donated nine stretchers to the effort. “We are proud to be associated with and participate in the outreach program,” says Wayne Flynn, Vice-President & General Manager at Hill-Rom Canada.  “We have a corporate responsibility to support programs like this, which provide much-needed help to developing countries like Haiti. Supply and equipment donations go a long way to enhancing patient outcomes in these areas – and just like the obstetric equipment we provided to the program previously, we know these stretchers will make a real difference at La Paix in its ability to deliver emergency care.”

But building an emergency room for La Paix is only one of the program’s many projects at the hospital, completed and ongoing. In addition to bringing back fresh water to the hospital, a project which will continue during the latest mission, the program has built an entire warehouse to help solve severe supply disorganization – an issue that burdens many hospitals in the area.

“The problem was, if you needed something, you couldn’t find it,” says Mr. Ayres. “In Haiti, if you get a cut and it becomes infected, you get gangrene. If you get gangrene, they’re going to cut off your arm. All of this because they can’t find a bandage.”

The outreach team has also rebuilt an OB/GYN facility, sterilization department and housekeeping amenities to name a few.

“We started this process with virtually nothing – just bare walls and a ceiling,” adds Mr. Ayres. “We had to bring in supplies, build infrastructure, train staff…everything. It hasn’t been an easy task, but it’s definitely rewarding. Each and every trip we make down to La Paix makes a real difference for those who most need and depend on its care.”

About St. Joseph’s Health System, International Outreach Program
Founded in 1986 as a continuation of the healing ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton, the St. Joseph’s Health System, International Outreach Program has been active over the last two decades in developing countries around the world.

The program is proud to have built healthcare capacity in Russia, Yemen, Israel and Dominica to name a few. Currently, the program has projects in Haiti, Uganda and Sudan.

Since entering Haiti, the program has provided emergency support, equipment and supplies for hospitals in Port-au-Prince, funding to support obstetrics care, and a medical resident exchange program. Additionally, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) approved the program to co-administer/govern the Hospital of Peace in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince at the request of the Haitian Minister of Health.

More information is available at