Haiti: Field- Based Medical Care

The logistics team set up, supplied, and eventually decommissioned several medical sites around Port au Prince. Photos from these missions were used by the German News Agency ZDF to highlight this aspect of the relief effort. The facilities we serviced include:

Gheskio: The International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT West) and a Massachusetts Disaster Medical Assistance Team teamed up to establish a field hospital at a school in Gheskio. In spite of severely austere conditions, the IMSuRT’s capabilities were substantial, with specialists including Trauma/General Surgeons, Burn/Orthopedic Surgeons, Pediatrics/OBGYN and Emergency MDs, PAs and NPs, ED/ICU/OR/Acute Care RNs, Respiratory Therapists, Pharmacists, Paramedics, EMTs and Mental Health professionals (from IMSuRT West’s website). The responders in Gheskio faced some of the most challenging conditions of all the HHS responders due to the incessant workload, poor air quality (power generator exhaust and burning debris were constant) security concerns. There were multiple instances of shots fired nearby, and some violent interactions among those waiting for care.

Pétionville: Pétionville is a suburb located in the hills overlooking Port au Prince. This area host a dramatic intermingling of poverty and affluence, with former presidents and foreign businessmen living in palatial mansions surrounded by shantytowns. The Club de Pétionville Country Club (which boasts Haiti’s only golf course) was transformed into a tent city housing 50,000 to 80,000 displaced persons. A DMAT cache was stood up on site to provide care for those in the tent city, and the US Army 82nd Airborne Division took up residence on the Tennis Courts to provide security. The IRCT logistics team was called upon to recover the equipment late one night, and one of the box trucks in the caravan struck a low-lying tree branch (see the second to last photo in this post). Eventually, the cache was transferred to the possession of the Department of State, and it is intended that as much of our equipment as possible will remain on the ground to continue to serve the Haitian people long after our departure.

Terminal Varreux: Terminal Varreux is the main evacuation area for patients to be treated offshore, and is located in an industrial area near Port–au-Prince’s seaport. Our logistics team was tasked with recovering supplies from the site after it was decommissioned.  The Navy chose the site because helicopters can land and airlift casualties to the ships providing medical aid, including the the Comfort (a hospital ship), the USS Carl Vinson (an aircraft carrier), the USS Bataan (an amphibious warfare ship), and USS Nassau (another amphibious warfare ship). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services disaster medical assistance teams manage the site along with medical personnel from the Navy. The site has one tent where the medical staff assesses the patients and another tent, where they wait for the next lift off the site.

The terminal area is less than ideal, with knee-high grass, uneven ground, and mounds of dirt and concrete semi-hidden by the underbrush. There is no shade and temperatures are into the 90s during the day. The treatment tent and the holding tent become very hot very quickly. Conditions for the workers are sparse, but they didn’t expect a vacation spot. They have set up a rudimentary shower, but the latrine is a tent over a bucket. The space is constrained. So much so, that the prop wash from CH-53 helicopters knocked the roofs off the facility twice.  This description is based on this source

DPMU: The Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) established a Disaster Portable Mortuary Unit (DPMU) at the end of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport flightline. The team of IRCT logistics USPHS officers assembled the Western Shelter living quarters , and a DMAT team provided medical care for the for the DMORT members. In the midst of such austere conditions, heat-related injuries were common. 

Signs lighten the mood at Gheskio.


Medical staff form a chain through the Gheskio compound to rapidly unload supplies from a logistics truck.


A physician interviews a Haitian mother about her daughter’s illness.


A Haitian woman with a broken lag shares her upbeat spirit in Gheskio.


An EMT in the Gheskio central courtyard.


This Disaster Medical Assistance Team member from Tennessee was responsible for providing care to excavation workers in the background.


Checking a logistics checklist in Gheskio.


A surgeon from M operates in Gheskio.


Operating in the Gheskio field hospital.