After a delicious breakfast of French toast and fruit (watermelon, pineapples, and mango), we all entered the SUV and Regine drove us to our first stop, State Hospital. We were introduced to Dr. Jimmy Joseph who gave us a tour of the entire hospital. The first room we observed was the emergency room which was very small in comparison to any emergency room I have seen in the United States. The room was crowded with patients on small beds the size of hotel cots and while there were a few ceiling fans, there was no air conditioning. Patients were exposed because the curtains which provided a sense of privacy were removed. Initially, I did not understand why patients would want this exposure but Dr. Joseph explained that it actually helped in the rehabilitation process because patients felt a sense of community knowing that other patients and family members were so close.
Although it is a State hospital, the government does not provide enough supplies. Many patients are required to obtain a prescription for equipment from their doctor, purchase those items, and bring them to the hospital in order to get treatment. Dr. Joseph showed us the surgery room which was small and is only equipped to allow four surgeries at one time. Even though doctors are expected to work twenty four hours a day, they are only able to perform at most twenty surgeries in one day.
Unfortunately, because of earth quake damage several wards were closed down, however there are plans to build a new hospital. Dr. Joseph expressed that one of their main challenges with the current building is that the wards are scattered; time is wasted and patient conditions are compromised when people are transported outdoors from one side of the hospital to another. Instead of building out, the new hospital will be built up and be more efficient. Construction is expected to be completed in 36 months and the new building, a $60 million investment will go a long way to improve patient conditions and be more accessible to the people of Port au Prince.
I was impressed with Dr. Joseph because along with being a bright and compassionate doctor, he took at least two hours out of his busy day to give us a thorough tour. To me it seemed like the hospital had bare necessities to serve the patients but the practitioners were invested in their work. It was also interesting to see the hospital as a local hang out for people. They were generally socializing, washing their laundry in the common areas, fixing their hair and just relaxing.
We then took in some local culture and stopped to purchase souvenirs. Our first stop was merchants who sold beautiful wooden and fabric artwork. I bargained with a seller and got a good deal on two fabric paintings which will look great on my wall. We also stopped by artists who made and sold gorgeous metal art. It was fascinating to watch the artisans in the process of crafting and painting such stunning work. The art was sold out of houses and the price of the artwork was open to negotiation. Although it was obvious to the sellers that we are Americans, they generally hesitated to speak English to us. I first thought maybe the artists did not understand English, but Regine told me that most of them understood and even if they only spoke limited English, they had a good understanding of “dollars” and were ready to bargain.
Another highlight of the day was learning how to cook Haitian food with Susie of Famvin. As a sub-sector of the Vincentian Family organization, Famvin provides microfinance for established businesses in Haiti who meet expertise and sustainability criteria. It was great to hear about how much of a difference this funding makes in people’s lives because they now able to take their businesses to another level.
The food was delicious and while we were not able to do much cooking we were told the food preparation process. I was surprised to find out that Haitian chicken takes hours to clean and prepare because of the meticulous cleaning, and marinating that is involved. We were served chicken, rice with beans, plantains, coleslaw, macaroni salad and vegetable salad. Overall the second day was quite informative and fun. The Haitians are wonderful people with so much to offer.