Haiti’s flagship public hospital hanging by a thread

By Milo Milfort

Port-au-Prince, Mar 17 (EFE).- Haiti’s State University Hospital (HUEH), the largest public health institution in the capital, is in a state of collapse amid the country’s ongoing social and economic crisis and a months-long strike by physicians demanding greater resources as well as higher pay.

Strikes are nothing new at HUEH, with a staff of roughly 1,500. In the last decade, not a year has passed without job actions by doctors, nurses, or support personnel.

The current walkout by medical residents – medical school graduates working under the direction of senior colleagues – began in December.

“It’s a catastrophic situation. The hospital is shut down, it doesn’t work,” HUEH’s director, Dr. Jude Milce, tells EFE, adding that the institution can no longer provide emergency care.

He acknowledges that the strikers’ demands are “just,” given that the 12,500 gourdes (about $80) a month they get is not enough to buy food for a week due to raging inflation.

“The residents are the lungs of the hospital in terms of service” and without them, HUEH cannot function, Dr. Mackendy Jacques says.

“The strike continues. There has been no advance in terms of negotiations between the (public health) ministry and the strikers,” he says.

Bemoaning a lack of resources, director Milce said that the Haitian government needs “to reflect on how to finance public hospitals.”

Dr. Jacques says that while the public views HUEH as a charity hospital where both medical attention and medication should be available at no cost, “there are some services that cannot be obtained for free.”

“There must be a structure to find sufficient funds, with the aim of being able to offer an adequate service,” he says.

For the vast majority of people in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, public hospitals are the only option when they need health care.

“If you don’t have money, they won’t even let you enter a private hospital,” Jacques says. “There are many victims because of this strike. There are people who can’t go anywhere else.”

“We can’t offer a figure for the children who have died, for the people dead from cerebral hemorrhages. This shutdown of the hospital is making people suffer,” Dr. Milce says. EFE mm/dr

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