Haitian Clinicians, Staff Resilient Through Unrest, COVID-19

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A group of staff in personal protective gear conduct a training on how to use COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests.
A group of staff in personal protective gear conduct a training on how to use COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests.
Staff in Haiti conduct a training on how to use COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests. (Photos courtesy of Zanmi Lasante)

Anti-government protests in Haiti began in July 2018 and persist to this day. The civil unrest—which has led to violent protests, roadblocks, and fuel shortages—has negatively impacted the economy and placed undue burden on Haitians, who now face 30 percent inflation on basic goods and services.

Despite the political and socio-economic turmoil, public health centers supported by Zanmi Lasante (ZL), as Partners In Health is known in Haiti, have remained open to provide critical care to Haitians across the country. As one of the Ministry of Health’s longstanding partners, ZL became the frontline responder to the first confirmed COVID-19 cases and remains the only organization with a health facility actively treating patients who test positive. While providing the best quality of care to its patients, ZL is following the ministry’s strategy to establish networks for contact tracing at the community level to ensure early detection of cases and to stop the spread of the virus.

Care continues in Haiti, despite civil unrest, violence toward health care workers, and global pandemic. 

As in past emergency situations, ZL will continue to ensure that essential routine health services are not impacted during the COVID-19 outbreak preparedness and response efforts. That work includes reinforced community monitoring of patients receiving care in other programs, such as tuberculosis and HIV, maternal and child health, and noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.

ZL clinicians and operations staff are working closely with ministry colleagues to ensure preparedness at our facilities for anyone who requires care for COVID-19. Six doctors and nine nurses are working around the clock to ensure care is effective, efficient, and patient-centered, while they also ensure they remain safe themselves. Meanwhile, staff have trained on how to use COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests and started testing at a border crossing with the Dominican Republic and at various ZL facilities.

Zanmi Lasante staff meet at the border with government officials from the Dominican Republic to discuss COVID-19 preparedness.

Although ZL has a strong reputation across Haiti and excels at community education and awareness, staff have become victims of unwarranted threats and violence in the communities they serve. More security personnel are now positioned across all sites to ensure that staff and patients remain safe while providing and seeking much needed care.

Today, ZL staff face the challenges of COVID-19 and are at the frontline of care and support for those receiving treatment now, and for individuals who will be impacted in the future. Tomorrow and every day after, they will work together to take on this battle. Haitian health care workers and staff at University Hospital and across all ZL-supported facilities will do whatever it takes to provide emergency and essential care to patients—despite all odds and obstacles.

Article originally posted on pih.org

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