Germain in Haiti: Ingenuity and an overwhelming need for care

In the second instalment of his diary from Haiti, Anthony Germain sees the stark contrast between supply and demand for medical services in Port-au-Prince.
Short on most medical aids and devices, Haitians improvise and invent these wheelchairs using plastic lawn chairs and bicycle parts. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

[Anthony Germain is on a week-long assignment covering Team Broken Earth, a group of Newfoundland and Labrador nurses and doctors, in Haiti. Each day, Anthony will file observations of what he sees; you can hear his reports on the St. John's Morning Show.]

Day 2 

Sunday, March 30, 16:00. Broken Earth Admin Office, Hospital Bernard MevsMy senses are almost overwhelmed: smells, broiling heat, and ceaseless pre-dawn roosters and loud dog fights in the streets. From the rooftop, I can see much squalor on the adjacent street. Yet amidst the throngs of Haitians going about their business, people are all smiling. You can’t judge a country by its dirt.

Also smiling all day: the parents. They patiently wait for Team Broken Earth doctors and nurses to look at their infants and toddlers. Many have mouths that seem sealed shut by immense, pink gums.

This mentally disabled one-year-old girl was brought to Team Broken Earth's pediatric clinic. (Anthony Germain/CBC)
Others have teeth crookedly bent upwards close to their noses. I saw many tiny children in rough shape. 

Gut punch: a mom with a mentally disabled semi-conscious one-year-old with a broken leg.

I came across a row of really interesting wheelchairs. Haitians respond to need with ingenuity, and are crossbreeding plastic lawn chairs with bike parts.

Some proof today that everything is relative. My initial response to the spartan nature of this operation was balanced by a visit to the state-run hospital, the only recourse for most of the population. Some N.L. doctors with Broken Earth went there to select some outpatients for procedures here at their clinic.

I wonder: Do those patients have any notion of how fortunate they are? In that hospital, there are so, so many people in need, but the N.L. doctors and nurses can only take a few. Haitian doctors and nurses at the state hospital are doing remarkable work with so few resources. Thought: I need to look at how the triage is done here before the week is up. Who gets through these doors? Who decides?

I am filing a news item for tomorrow. I haven’t done news since I was leaving China for the St. John’s Morning Show, and I've forgotten how challenging it is to try to be smart and informative in a minute. Despite many technological difficulties, I will get on the Morning Show tomorrow ... one way or another.

Dr. Arthur Rideout, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and anesthesiologist Dr. Sonia Sampson consult with a Haitian woman about surgery for her daughter. The 10-month old's upper palate is diagonally deformed towards her nose. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

About the Author

Anthony Germain

CBC News

Anthony Germain cohosts Here & Now in Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a former host of the St. John's Morning Show and CBC Radio's The House, and is CBC's former correspondent in China.