At A Local Hospital In Haiti's Hard-Hit Southwest The Injured Continue To Arrive

Aug 19, 2021
Originally published on August 20, 2021 5:53 pm

LES CAYES, Haiti — Inside the gates of the Immaculée Conception Hospital in this seaside town, family members of a woman who just died have collapsed in each others' arms.

The woman's thin body is carried out on a stretcher. Wrapped tightly in a sheet, she's loaded into the back of a battered Chevy Suburban.

Even as the dead depart, more injured come in the front gate. They come in cars, on the back of motorcycles. Children are carried to the door. A woman limps in, her foot wrapped in cloth. A famous Haitian DJ called Tony Mix arrives and tosses money to the crowd.

Inside the wards, all the beds are full. Patients are lying on mattresses on the floor and on gurneys in the hallways.

Dr. Titus Antoine, center, treats a woman who was injured during the earthquake.
Octavio Jones for NPR

"This person over here has head trauma," says Dr. Titus Antoine, who runs the emergency room. "This girl has a fractured femur."

He ticks through the tragedies spread out across his ER. Given that it's been five days since the quake hit, he expected the number of injured to start declining. But patients just keep arriving.

The staff are working non-stop, and Antoine says he, too, has been working around the clock.

"I have to because I have to control the emergency room. I have to stay," he says. "I go eat something and go back. I have to stay there to control everything, to do everything."

At the Immaculée Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, people are treated for injuries suffered during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the city on Aug. 14.
Octavio Jones for NPR

Some of the injured patients are arriving only now from areas where the roads had been cut off. Others delayed coming because their wounds weren't life-threatening. A man being treated on a bench outside the ER has cuts on his arms that he thought would heal but now are infected.

I ask Dr. Antoine if there are enough antibiotics.

"How can I say," he hesitates. "We control the situation now. But if there's more, it would be better."

In the pediatric ward, a naked 6-year-old girl is having a gash that stretches the length of her shin cleaned and wrapped. A nurse on the unit, Fevrier Marie Yves Rose, says the girl is being prepped for surgery and has multiple injuries to her legs.

A woman holds her injured son at the hospital Wednesday.
Octavio Jones for NPR

Several of the medical staff say that one of the big challenges is that even after they patch patients up, they're discharging them to sleep in the streets of a city that's in shambles.

At the Les Cayes airport, aid workers and relief supplies are arriving by air. A massive white helicopter from the U.N. World Food Programme discharges cargo and passengers in the grass at the end of the runway.

Aid agencies say they're trying to get aid to the quake zone as quickly as possible. Bruno Maes, the country representative for UNICEF in Haiti, says he understands people's impatience. But roads were blocked by the quake, a key highway is controlled by gangs - and then Tropical Storm Grace hit.

"I would say that in general the access is possible," Maes says. "But it's just a matter of time and it's difficult to reach everyone in one day."

Workers with UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross prepare to distribute relief supplies in Torbeck, Haiti.
Octavio Jones for NPR

Yesterday afternoon UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross distributed some of the supplies that they'd managed to get through that aid corridor. West of Les Cayes, out of the back of a big-box truck, aid workers passed out tarps, blankets, plastic water cans and buckets with sanitary supplies.

A pregnant woman in a bright red dress, Mira Marie Malia, was most grateful for the tarp. "Because that can help me have somewhere else to live at night, to sleep at night," she says, but then adds what she really needs is food.

Relief workers with UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross distribute supplies to people in Torbeck, Haiti.
Octavio Jones for NPR

The aid was only being given to people whom aid workers had visited earlier and deemed were in need. Residents who hadn't been given a green ticket weren't eligible to get the supplies.

An angry crowd of people without tickets quickly grew around the truck.
The aid workers tried to convince the crowd that more supplies would be coming soon.

Odize Bernadette, 42, standing off to the side, was incredibly frustrated.

A family walks home after receiving relief supplies from UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross.
Octavio Jones for NPR

"I don't have anything," she said. "My children and I, we sleep on the ground. We don't have food, we don't have water, everybody's house collapsed and we don't know what to do."

Bernadette says she would be thrilled to have any of the things they're giving away. But at least for now, she has to wait.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a picture now of a Haitian city after its recent earthquake. The city is Les Cayes, and NPR's Jason Beaubien is there after an event that left more than 2,000 people dead. Hi there, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

INSKEEP: What have you seen?

BEAUBIEN: You know, it's a dire landscape out there. You know, the soccer stadium is a tent city. Lots of people don't have water because so many pipes snapped as the - you know, the Earth shook so violently. Some neighborhoods have just been completely taken over by people who've moved out into the streets because their houses collapsed or they're terrified to be inside them. And this is the piece we put together, and it starts with the chaos inside the compound of the general hospital.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE YELLING)

BEAUBIEN: Inside the hospital gates, family members of a woman who just died have collapsed in each other's arms. The woman's thin body is carried out on a stretcher. Wrapped tightly in a sheet, she's loaded into the back of a battered Chevy Suburban.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)

BEAUBIEN: Even as the dead depart, more injured come in the front gate. They come in cars, on the back of motorcycles. Children are carried to the door. A woman limps in, her foot wrapped in cloth. A famous Haitian DJ called Tony Mix arrives and tosses money to the crowd. Inside the wards, all the beds are full. Patients are lying on mattresses on the floor and on gurneys in the hallways.

TITUS ANTOINE: This guy - he has trauma in his brain. This girl has a fracture in her femur.

BEAUBIEN: Dr. Titus Antoine runs the emergency room. Given that it's been five days since the quake hit, he expected the number of injured to start declining, but he says patients just keep arriving. And he says the staff are working nonstop.

ANTOINE: Twenty-four. I have to because I have to control the emergency room. I go eat something and go back to control everything, to do everything.

BEAUBIEN: Some of the injured patients are arriving only now from areas where the roads have been cut off. Others delayed coming because their wounds weren't life-threatening. A man being treated on a bench outside the ER has cuts on his arms that he thought would heal but now are infected.

I mean, is there enough medicine? Is there enough antibiotics? Is there enough of that here?

ANTOINE: If we have more, it would be better. But right now, we - how can I say that? We control the situation. But if there's more, it would be better.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD SCREAMING)

BEAUBIEN: In the pediatric ward, a naked 6-year-old girl is having a gash that stretches the length of her shin cleaned and wrapped. A nurse on the unit, Fevrier Marie Yves Rose, says the girl is being prepped for surgery and has multiple injuries to her legs.

Will this child be able to walk again?

FEVRIER MARIE YVES ROSE: (Through interpreter) I don't know. I cannot say that. I don't know.

BEAUBIEN: Several of the medical staff say that one of the big challenges is that even after they patch patients up, they're discharging them to sleep in the streets of a city that's in shambles.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER BLADES BUZZING)

BEAUBIEN: At the Les Cayes airport, aid workers and relief supplies are arriving by air. A massive white helicopter from the U.N. World Food Programme discharges cargo and passengers in the grass at the end of the runway. Aid agencies say they're trying to get aid here as quickly as possible. Bruno Maes, the country representative for UNICEF, says he understands people's impatience, but roads were blocked by the quake, a key highway was controlled by gangs, and then Tropical Storm Grace hit.

BRUNO MAES: I would say that in general, the access is possible, you know? It's just the time, and it's difficult to reach everyone in one day. It's basically quite difficult.

BEAUBIEN: Yesterday afternoon, UNICEF and the Haitian Red Cross distributed some of the supplies that they'd managed to get through that aid corridor.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: West of Les Cayes out of the back of a big box truck, aid workers passed out tarps, blankets, plastic water cans and buckets with sanitary supplies. A pregnant woman in a bright red dress, Mira Marie Malia, was grateful for the tarp.

MIRA MARIE MALIA: (Through interpreter) Because that can help me to have somewhere else to live at night, to sleep at night. But I need food especially.

BEAUBIEN: The aid was only being given to people who aid workers had visited earlier and deemed were a need. Residents who hadn't been given a green ticket weren't eligible to get the supplies. An angry crowd of people without tickets quickly grew around the truck.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: The aid workers tried to convince the crowd that more supplies would be coming soon. Forty-two-year-old Odize Bernadette, standing off to the side, was incredibly frustrated.

ODIZE BERNADETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: "I don't have anything," she said. "My children and I, we sleep on the ground."

BERNADETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: "We don't have food. We don't have water. Everybody's house collapsed. And we don't know what to do."

BERNADETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: "My life is in their hands," she said.

BERNADETTE: (Non-English language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: Bernadette would be thrilled to have any of the things they're giving away. But at least for now, she has to wait.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Les Cayes, Haiti. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.