Emergencies Overwhelm Capital's Main Hospital Haiti's already limited medical infrastructure was all but wiped out in the earthquake. Aid groups and the international community are rushing doctors and medical supplies to the country. Meanwhile, patients with compound fractures, severe lacerations and amputations are sleeping outside Port-au-Prince's main hospital as they wait for treatment.
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Emergencies Overwhelm Capital's Main Hospital

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Emergencies Overwhelm Capital's Main Hospital

Emergencies Overwhelm Capital's Main Hospital

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Turning again to Haiti, efforts to help survivors of the devastating earthquake there have been stymied by lack of water, electricity, doctors and medical supplies. Makeshift clinics have been set up to tend to the injured. NPRs Greg Allen has more from Port-au-Prince.

GREG ALLEN: On a sidewalk in the dense Bel-Air neighborhood, a crowd of people are gathered. One mans head is wrapped in a bandage. Its one of dozens of makeshift medical clinics that have sprung up all over the city. Reno Adolf(ph) says this one was set up by the mayors office.

Mr. RENO ADOLF: We have no means, no medications and nothing. We have two volunteers, doctors, and two nurses, and we thought that was imperative to do that.

ALLEN: For medicine, the doctors have Tylenol, topical antibiotic, bandages, and thats about it. Even more frustrating there's no place to send patients with severe injuries.

Unidentified Child: (Foreign language spoken)

Dr. NANCY GELINE(ph): (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Child: (Foreign language spoken)

ALLEN: On a street just outside the general hospital, Dr. Nancy Geline is trying to give an injection to a seven year old girl. Its a heartbreaking scene. Bernadette Bernard(ph), the childs cousin, describes what happened.

Ms. BERNADETTE BERNARD: (Foreign language spoken)

ALLEN: The girl was in a neighbors house, she says, when it collapsed. To pull her from the rubble, rescuers were forced to amputate her hand. Her arm is bandaged but she is still awaiting surgery to have her wound sewn up and properly treated. Meanwhile, sleeping in the hospital bed out in the elements. Dr. Geline says the hospital itself is another casualty of the earthquake.

Dr. GELINE: (Through translator) (unintelligible) inside (unintelligible) to stay inside. They collapsed, they crushed.

ALLEN: (unintelligible) collapse. Yeah.

The patients who were inside the building were moved outside. And earthquake victims, many with serious trauma, are lying on the ground wherever they can find room.

We are in an area that would be a beautiful park but outside there are hospital beds everywhere, people lying on the ground on palettes, on blankets, and there's some pretty bad cases here. You see people who have arms missing, limbs, legs missing, other internal injuries, trying to get the attention of the doctors when they come through; family members are sitting by. Its a very chaotic scene but at the same time people are remaining calm, thinking that there is some place where theyll get some help.

ALLEN: Under a tree an elderly man lies in a hospital bed with a piece of cardboard over his feet. Dr. Urbab Ditall(ph) says the mans right foot was smashed in the earthquake.

Dr. URBAB DITALL: Well try to clean the wound and to give some analgesic for the pain and try to prepare him for (unintelligible).

ALLEN: Amputated,

Dr. DITALL: Amputated.

ALLEN: Do you know how long hes been here?

Dr. DITALL: We dont know, because there are many of them here, I dont know. Were going to take (unintelligible).

ALLEN: Help...

Dr. DITALL: (Unintelligible)

ALLEN: The director of the hospital, Dr. Alex Laseg(ph), is desperate for outside assistance.

Dr. ALEX LASEG: We need material. We need medication, painkillers, antibiotics, and we need also every team(ph) medical or surgical that could help us.

ALLEN: International medical groups are already here providing what help they can. Whats still missing is a comprehensive approach to getting medical supplies and doctors where theyre most needed. At Port-au-Princes general hospital, Margaret Aguirre with the International Medical Corp arrives saying she just found the World Health Organization had a supply of drugs and medical supplies available. And she is hopeful that her team could soon help set up a surgical unit at the hospital.

Dr. MARGARET AGUIRRE (International Medical Corps): Yeah, I mean, we hope so. But we have to set up tents and get things sanitized so we have to be sure we can do that.

ALLEN: Because you talking about open your surgeries then.

Dr. AGUIRRE: Yeah.

ALLEN: The good news is that the international community is responding. Several countries are sending fully equipped field hospitals. The U.N. is planning a large medical facility at the city stadium. But Laview Vidrasco(ph) with the International Medical Corps says its a race against the clock.

Dr. LAVIEW VIDRASCO (International Medical Corps): What well see later is probably some infections starting because of some of the fractures. So, if those fractures are unattended, untreated, well start seeing infection, sepsis, people dying of other causes, losing blood.

ALLEN: The question for many the Haitians awaiting medical care is not whether help will arrive but whether it will arrive in time.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

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