Mission to Haiti: Caring for Patients at Municipal Nursing Home

By Lauren Kessler, LCSW

Port-au-Prince, Haiti  – March 24, 2010 -  8:30 a.m.

We finally got in to the Asile Communal (municipal nursing home) yesterday, and to say it’s awful is an understatement. It’s basically a tent city, outside of the old nursing home (which collapsed). There are people of all ages there, because it’s a shelter site too. We saw little babies sleeping in these tents, right next to the elderly. Everyone is malnourished and dehydrated, and the worst part is that there is plenty of food and water in Haiti right now, but everything is so disorganized that it’s not being distributed properly.

Dr. Martin Gorbien treats patients at Asile Communal (Municipal Nursing Home).

So we set up a little “clinic”, with a table, and some chairs, and by word of mouth, the older residents came over to get a check up, which involved myself and the interpreters taking down basic information and then Dr. Gorbien taking blood pressure, etc.  All we were really able to do was prescribe medication for hypertension (almost everyone has hypertension) and pain medication. We brought our own supply of these medications, poured some in a baggie, and wrote the med name and number of times to take/day on a piece of tape – the best we could do in that situation.

We were only able to see 20 patients yesterday, which took 2 1/2 hours, however we’re allowed to go back this morning, to hopefully see the rest (about 40 more). Yesterday we went to look at some sites where HelpAge can eventually relocate these patients out of Asile Communal, and into a better environment, because no one should be living there.

Lauren Kessler and Dr. Martin Gorbien

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