Last year, Northern Friends of Haiti (NFoH), in association with our Haitian partners and the “Leadership Coalition” who represents the Bayonnais Valley community, built a combined Community Center and Medical Clinic in the village of Lacoupe. This extensive project, with a final cost of approximately $50,000, was conceptualized in January, built in May and June, and opened for use in late June and received final finishes and painting in September, 2015 (Refer to Blog titled “New Rural Medical and Community Center Opens” dated July 22, 2015). The facility was dedicated in November at a ceremony and festival attended by nearly 1,000 people from throughout the valley. Four NFoH Board members and a major financial contributor to the project were also in attendance.
The opening of the medical clinic component of this facility, named the “Klinik Kominotè Elaine Harrington” (Elaine Harrington Community Clinic) after a prominent English professor, writer and social activist from Vermont, brought healthcare to a rural area in Haiti that had previously lacked consistent, organized medical services. The Clinic is now open two days a week, staffed one day by a Haitian doctor and community health worker and a second day by a Haitian nurse and community health worker. An average of 35-40 patients are seen and treated each day clearly showing the need for these services. For multiple reasons, the clinic uses a “formulary” (prescribed medicine) consisting mostly of medications purchased in Haiti. Haitians have access to a fairly extensive assortment of pharmaceuticals which are available at a much lower cost than similar medications in the US. The philosophy of using and prescribing medications that can be bought in Haiti is more “sustainable” than introducing medications unobtainable by most Haitians. Additionally, medicines are becoming more difficult to import from the United States and foreign countries as Haiti Custom “tariffs” are being assessed.
Patients visiting the Clinic receive basic assessment and medical treatment for many conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure), prenatal care, viral and bacterial infections, respiratory and urinary tract infections, skin fungus, intestinal parasites as well as cuts, abrasions and minor burns. The clinic also serves as a preliminary assessment site for most of mosquito borne diseases including Malaria, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Zinka and others. The medical staff treats people of all ages from infants to the very old. Patients currently pay a small fee (150 gourdes, $2.50 US) per consult, which includes any medicine they might need. Follow-up and long term treatment (IE: prenatal and hypertension) is addressed by scheduled return visit(s) for which patients must pay the consult fee. The current fee is approximately 1/2 of the actual cost of service. The intent has been too slowly increase the fee from the initial 50 gourdes ($1 US) charged per consult when the clinic opened in June, 2015 to 300 +/- gourdes ($5 US) over a two-year period so that the Clinic can become self-sustaining; we are halfway there!
The Elaine Harrington Community Clinic is also sponsoring a proactive outreach program to all of the schools in the valley. The “Nurse and Community Health Worker Outreach to Rural Elementary Schools Program” (as we called it in a recent grant application to support this program) endeavors to monitor and improve the health and well being of the children throughout the valley. The program requires the clinic nurse and community health worker to “venture” off site to the surrounding village schools to teach staffs and students about proper hygiene and health related issues, provide gastrointestinal parasite medication to all, treat any minor health issues among the staff and children, as well as monitor the overall health and well-being of the children of the valley. The term “venture” should not be taken lightly; the team will walk as many as 10 miles each week to visit 3 or 4 schools. The intent is to visit each school within the valley at least once every 4 or five weeks. This program is currently serving seventeen (17) schools throughout the valley; approximately 3,000 children.
Equally important to all of the health care initiatives noted above, the clinic staff, with support from medical professionals associated with NFoH, are providing specialized care (dental, eye exams, physical therapy, etc.) with help from outside sources as well as developing medical record systems for all patients seen at the clinic and school children throughout the valley. These efforts assure continuity of care, provide means to track program impact and successes and procure medical and health data to share with others who may benefit from this enterprise. The programs sponsored by the Elaine Harrington Community Clinic are not yet self-sustaining and we continually seek financial support to maintain them, but they are designed to become financially sustainable within the economics of the community within a few years. Northern Friends of Haiti’s goal is to always develop “sustainable” programs.