AFT Healthcare Workers Helping Haiti Earthquake Victims

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Another dispatch from the members of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals who are in Jimani, Dominican Republic, to help the victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

Jan. 25 | Jan. 26 | Feb. 1 | Feb. 25

“Our work in Jimani is saving lives, and our ability to provide compassionate care is critical to ease the suffering of the victims of the earthquake,” say the members of the Vermont Haiti Relief Team.

The Vermont team has been working out of a medical compound in Jimani, Dominican Republic, since Jan. 21. The compound is on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border.

RNs Joan Carson and Jackie Schlein.The nurse team—Joan Carson, Sarah Harwood, Susana Knoop, Mari Cordes and Jackie Schlein—is busy at work providing medications, wound care and support for hundreds of patients and their families.

There have been several mild aftershocks and the patients are terrified. Many of them will not stay indoors and must be cared for outside.

Drs. Bill Charash and David Greenhouse have created several wound clinics that will serve the people in Fond Parisien and Jimani for many months as the number of refugees increases exponentially. They are teaching families how to care for wounds and how to maintain mobility of injured arms and legs.

Paramedic Jeremiah Goyette helps transport a patient.Paramedics Jeremiah Goyette and Brian Gacioch and EMT Brian Cunningham have been helping to facilitate critical-care transports to the USNS Comfort and hospitals in Santo Domingo in addition to helping with wound debridement, dressing changes and whatever care is needed. Some days more than seven Black Hawk helicopters will land at the compound to drop off patients and to transport the critically ill. Goyette had the first transport of a two-year old burn victim to the USNS Comfort.

The hospital administrators in Jimani are so thankful for the volunteers who are willing to come every week for the next three months. They anticipate the need will continue for much longer, but they are struggling with rescue teams who come in for two to three days and then leave.

Team members help a little boy learn to use a walker.It has been difficult to ensure the patients are getting evaluated for treatments, surgery or transport to other facilities. By overlapping our teams, we will transfer the knowledge and experience of one team to another so that care will be coordinated and teams will feel more equipped to carry out their challenging assignments.

Our team continues to meet each morning and evening to debrief. Members have expressed gratitude for being able to do such important work, but say it is difficult to see the grief and pain that is the reality for so many who are injured and/or have lost family and friends.

“Overall, morale is high,” writes Brian Cunningham in the Vermont Haiti Relief Team blog. “The jokes keep flying, we’re all smiling, and we await the next wave of people with open arms.”

Our members, other Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC) employees and community members who have agreed to travel and provide care are the reason Vermont is the best place to live and work.

While Fletcher Allen has agreed to cover the costs of immunizations for our co-workers, they have yet to agree to helping cover the cost of lost time for our teams. Regardless of their support, we are committed to raising funds to cover the airfare for future teams and to do what it takes to continue our medical missions to Jimani.

The employees at FAHC in the frontlines of care are truly the heart of this organization. Thanks to our union, we have been able to help FAHC prioritize patient care. It is our goal that FAHC will become the healthcare organization the patients and the community deserve. This relief effort is happening because the will of many employees who knew it was the right thing to do and the time was now. Our determination is greater than the obstacles that have been put in our way. [Photos courtesy of Vermont Haiti Relief Team]

January 26, 2010

Read the Jan. 25 dispatch.