Audio: Plane full of medicine turned away while health workers strain to treat patients in Port-Au-Prince


Here’s my story for yesterday’s Free Speech Radio News newscast. Some horrific sights at both Cannape-Vert Hospital and the Doctors Without Borders Clinic in Cite Soleil.

MP3. Video probably coming later. It’s really an inefficient medium, from what I see here. Journalists go out, shoot footage, then come back mid-day to begin an hours-long editing process, when they could be out reporting. By tradition they go to the trouble of hiding cuts in interviews with b-roll, instead of doing simple, honest jump-cuts to which the YouTube generation is totally accustomed. There’s no innovation…

Update: Big thanks to the Quixotess in Seattle for transcribing! Global media collaboration FTW. Text below the jump.

We go now to Port-au-Prince, where medical workers are racing to treat patients…

[We can hear a man’s low voice and a girl’s voice raised. Throughout, we can hear people’s voices in the background–a baby cooing, adults rushing about.]

Cracks run down the wall of Port-au-Prince’s central Cannape Vert hospital. Rooms and hallways are empty. There’s so little staff that for fleeting moments, even the main operating room, directly beneath a fractured skylight, looks abandoned. Then, two Haitian Red Cross volunteers rush in with another wounded person. Doctors run back in from all directions to begin their work again and again.

Florence Burreynau is a Haitian doctor who returned here from Canada just last year. She said she had difficulties setting up a practice there and wanted to live in her home country. Friends and family said she was crazy to go back. Her downtown clinic is unusable, so she came here, one of just three Haitian doctors seen at the hospital. They are helped by a team of ten French doctors who arrived here two days after the earthquake.

“I am trying my best to do some suture, giving some pills to the patient, trying to have the wounds clean.”

The doctors don’t have the materials to do much beyond treating skin wounds, of which there are many, to the head, feet, arms, and other body parts hit by falling houses. Doctors from the French team said medical supplies they were promised had not arrived yet, and they said that the French embassy had demanded that they close the interior of the hospital and return the embassy, a fifteen minute drive away, each day at 5 PM because of security concerns.

Outside the hospital, a 28 year old Haitian who asked only to be called Dr Samedi, does much of the same work, but he’s surrounded by wounded in tents, not the walls of the cramped hallway.

[We can hear a woman’s voice, perhaps tense with pain. Once, she takes a ragged breath.]

He tries to soothe a woman as he pulls skin off of her gaping foot wound. “I know it hurts, girl, I know it’s bad,” he says.

Meanwhile, in Cite Soleil, the Doctors Without Borders clinic has enough supplies, but cannot use their building. They operate on three or four people at a time, while hundreds wait in tents for treatment. Many were carried in by Haitians who rescued them, and some have been waiting for more than a day. Samuel Jeanius is a 33 year old medical student.

“I want to tell the international community that we need help. Because a lot of people are suffering. We also need places for people to stay, because we are not safe here. This morning there was an aftershock, and there was panic. People ran away. I wish people would consider our need for medicine and surgeons, because we’re really trying to help people suffering.”

The doctors don’t rest for a moment, treating person after person for hours.

Later, American rescue worker Douglas Cobb arrives at the UN base with a pickup truck and several Haitian women in the back. Cobb said he was a 9/11 first responder, who tried to fly in medicine with the Peruvian military.

“Well, what really happened here, is the UN military were there. And then the US military came in and kicked them out. So they never allowed for any transition. So what they did was they just sent all the planes back, with the medicines and everything. And, right now, we’ve been driving with four people that we have rescued–including a pregnant woman, okay–who have injuries that medicine will stop them from dying, and we’ve been driving around for four hours to all these hospitals, and none of them have the medicines that we need to save their life. Because the US military turned their plane back.”

“Back to where? Where’d it go?

“Went to Santa Domingo. So then in Santa Domingo, we got a bus, and we came in with just everything we could fit in the bus. But we got a whole freakin’ planeful of the friggin’ medicine!”

Nearly a week after the earthquake, the US government says 265 medical personnel are on the ground in Haiti, while more than ten thousand armed soldiers guard the airport and embassy, and begin to distribute aid.

But at City Med Hospital down in Delmas, eight Haitian doctors struggling to maintain a maternity ward in an intact hospital said they’ve received zero assistance since the earthquake. They yelled at this reporter to go away, saying a CNN crew had already stopped by. “We need medicines and help, not journalists,” they said.

Ansel Herz, FSRN, Port-au-Prince.

2 thoughts on “Audio: Plane full of medicine turned away while health workers strain to treat patients in Port-Au-Prince”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *