A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) cargo plane carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday night despite repeated assurances of its ability to land there. This 12-ton cargo was part of the contents of an earlier plane carrying a total of 40 tons of supplies that was blocked from landing on Sunday morning. Since January 14, MSF has had five planes diverted from the original destination of Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic. These planes carried a total of 85 tons of medical and relief supplies.
“We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying,” said Loris de Filippi, emergency coordinator for the MSF’s Choscal Hospital in Cite Soleil. “I have never seen anything like this. Any time I leave the operating theater I see lots of people desperately asking to be taken for surgery. Today, there are 12 people who need lifesaving amputations at Choscal Hospital. We were forced to buy a saw in the market to continue amputations. We are running against time here.”
More than 500 patients in need of surgery have been transferred from MSF health center in the Martissant neighborhood to Choscal Hospital with more than 230 operated on since Thursday. MSF teams have been working since the first hours after the earthquake and these cargo shipments are vital to continue their ability to provide essential medical care to victims of the disaster. In five different locations in the city, MSF has given primary care to an estimated 3,000 people in the capital and performed more than 400 surgeries.
“It is like working in a war situation,” said Rosa Crestani, MSF medical coordinator for Choscal Hospital. “We don’t have any more morphine to manage pain for our patients. We cannot accept that planes carrying lifesaving medical supplies and equipment continue to be turned away while our patients die. Priority must be given to medical supplies entering the country.”
Many of the patients have been pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings are at grave risk of death from septicemia and the consequences of “crush syndrome,” a condition where damaged muscle tissue releases toxins into the bloodstream and can lead to death from kidney failure. Dialysis machines are vital to keeping patients alive with this condition.
Another two planes carrying a total of 26 MSF aid workers were diverted to Dominican Republic. MSF has successfully landed five planes with a total of 135 tons of supplies into Port-au-Prince. Another 195 tons of supplies will need to be granted permission to land in the airport in the coming days in order to continue MSF’s scale up of its medical relief operation in Haiti.
More than 700 MSF staff are working to provide emergency medical care to earthquake survivors in and around Port-au-Prince. MSF teams are currently working in Choscal Hospital, Martissant Health Center, Trinite Hospital, Carrefour hospital, Jacmel Hospital, and are establishing a 100-bed inflatable hospital in the Delmas area. They are running exploratory assessment missions to other locations outside the capital as well.