Public Health

Time Runs Short As Magnitude Of Medical Problems In Haiti Grows

Morgue workers are trying to deal with the thousands of bodies piling up at the central morgue at th i i

Morgue workers are trying to deal with the thousands of bodies piling up at the central morgue at the National Hospital in downtown of Port-au-Prince, Thursday January 14, 2010. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
Morgue workers are trying to deal with the thousands of bodies piling up at the central morgue at th

Morgue workers are trying to deal with the thousands of bodies piling up at the central morgue at the National Hospital in downtown of Port-au-Prince, Thursday January 14, 2010.

David Gilkey/NPR

The enormity of the challenge for medical personnel rushing to aid the vast number of people injured by the Haitian quake is becoming clearer just at the time left to make a difference fades.

NPR's Carrie Kahn and David Gilkey report on the tumultuous scene in Port-au-Prince on Friday's Morning Edition. Gilkey says four of six major roads leading up a hillside in the capital were blocked by stacks of dead bodies. Kahn reports on a clinic overwhelmed with injured people and an absence of doctors to care for them. A local man does his best to comfort a young girl with a broken arm but she needs someone to set the fracture.

Doctors and relief workers from around the world are scrambling to get into the country. The sheer number of aircraft is straining the capacity of the capital's airport and causing trouble in the skies. NPR's Joanne Silberner reports on a harrowing flight that was diverted from Port-au-Prince Thursday night after the aircraft stalled in the wake of another plane just ahead. Silberner's plane switched destinations to the Turks and Caicos, delaying the arrival of elite U.S. medical teams that specialize in providing disaster services by a day.

The NPR's Richard Knox reports the need for surgeons and makeshift operating rooms is a particular problem after earthquakes, such as the one in Haiti that leveled buildings and caused widespread traumatic injuries.

A British team of surgeons flying to Haiti Friday plans to set up a field hospital in Port-au-Prince, but doesn't know where that might be. One of the doctors, Dr. Richard Villar, an orthopedic surgeon, tells Knox, "I'm trying to get people patched up, rescued, and limbs preserved as rapidly as I can."

People with traumatic wounds, such as broken bones and crushed muscles, need treatment within about six days. That window closes Sunday, Knox reports, a deadline that looms on doctors' minds.

Dr. Jorge Velasco, who's coordinating medical rescue efforts at USAID, acknowledged the rising death toll and the urgent need for care in spite of the logistical challenges. "I won't say that it's unlikely that surgical units will be able to be installed by the weekend," Velasco says. "Our hope is that we will be able to get some of these on the ground. Of course there are doubts whether that will be sufficient."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.