Notes on Haiti - CEO Journal Part 18

Note: While Scripps continues to serve a medical mission to Haiti, Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder is writing updates about medical aid in progress, conditions on the ground and what can be done to help earthquake victims. For other journal entries, see the Haiti news page.

Thursday, Feb. 25, at 7 a.m., our third mission to Haiti began at administrative headquarters. For all practical purposes, this mission started more than a week ago, with communication with our contacts in Haiti and work from the support teams in disaster preparedness, supply chain, pharmacy, information services and many other departments.

Luc Bouquet, the nurse practitioner we are coordinating with at Hospital Saint Francois de Sales, has stayed in almost daily contact with the team here at Scripps. He has requested a team to help them in the triage/fast track area of the hospital. So, this morning, we sent in the following new team members: David Smith, MD (emergency medicine); Charles Simmons, MD (emergency medicine); Katrina Kelly, MD (obstetrics/gynecology); Michael Sykes, RN; Patty Skoglund, RN (coordinating from our last mission); and John Armstrong, EMT (logistics/administration). This six person team will arrive in Haiti on Saturday, Feb. 27, with enough supplies to support their work in the triage area of the hospital during the mission.

The mission Thursday morning started with a bit of a scramble. Our team left with supplies at the same time we received word that the government of Haiti is now taxing supplies arriving into the country. While it would appear that “humanitarian supplies” are exempt from the tax, the team left without any documentation to verify the mission and humanitarian purpose. So, as I write this, we are developing letters to use and we are requesting additional documentation from our contacts in Haiti. The last thing we want to do is to donate people, time and some supplies — and be taxed for it.

Having said that, we have been blessed by internal and community support for our missions. In addition to wonderful letters and e-mails of support, many employees have donated to our effort and we have received additional financial support from the community as a result of the articles which have run in local newspapers and broadcasts on radio and television news.

The need is still very great. Dr. Brent Eastman and I have been receiving blogs and e-mails from additional contacts in Haiti and I’d like to share a piece written by an agency that operates a Catholic hospital and orphanage in the country:

“Haiti is in mourning. One week ago we mourned the one month anniversary of the tragedy with three days of prayer, mass, and reflection. This week the Sisters of Charity heard that some of their fellow sisters, the Sisters of Mary, had died when their church collapsed. They recovered some of their bodies and they are now buried outside of the church at Saint Damian hospital. This week they also discovered a school with two-hundred children inside. The Sisters are recovering the dead, because the government is not present, tragedy compounding tragedy.

“In one of his sermons this week, Father Rick said that we are now in phase two of the crisis, and that this phase is so much harder than the first. The first was one of action, adrenaline, of saving a child’s life by amputating a limb and rescuing people from under the rubble. But now, after more than five weeks, we can no longer find anyone alive, the amputations have been done and now need to be cared for and watched over, and we have begun to think of what we have lost. And so now we begin to look forward, to take stock of what happened, to begin to feel our losses, and the uncertainty of the future.”

Scripps will not be able to sustain its work in Haiti indefinitely, as we all know. But at this time we can, and the need is real. We also benefit through this humanitarian effort with the learnings from each clinical team. My thanks to the latest team to volunteer and to their family members who they left behind this morning. This is a major commitment for each of them.

I know that many, many more of you would like to go and help on these missions. I wish we were able to send everyone who has volunteered. Unfortunately, that is not possible. But we sincerely appreciate every volunteer and we are keeping your communication and offers to help. Sadly, we know that disasters are always going to occur. There will be additional opportunities to serve.

So the next update I write will be with comments and stories from Team 3 in Haiti.

Chris Van Gorder

See the Haiti news page for other journal entries.