The hospital that refused to die
20 December 2012
The story of St. François de Sales is one of a hospital that refused to die. It is the oldest and most respected hospital in Port-au-Prince, known for its service to poor people. The earthquake destroyed about 80 percent of the facility, including its maternity, paediatric and general inpatient wards. The disaster killed 140 of the hospital's staff and patients.
Within days of the earthquake, operations were being performed at St François de Sales on people who had sustained terrible injuries. Surgeons recruited from Europe and the United States operated in what was left of the building. Patient wards erected in the courtyard were covered at first with tarpaulins and later with tents.
CRS (Catholic Relief Services – a US member of the Caritas confederation) saw how essential the hospital was to the community of Port-au-Prince and decided to rebuild it once the immediate emergency was over.
“I have met many people here in Haiti that have shared that generations of their family were born at St. François de Sales Hospital. There is now great excitement that St. François de Sales Hospital is being rebuilt and they can see that many more generations will benefit from the quality medical services and education,” says CRS Country Representative Darren Hercyk.
First, workers had to remove 11,770 cubic yards of rubble. Hospital operations were temporarily moved to another site, where tents housed hospital staff and patients.
CRS also launched a training programme that will transform the ways in which physicians and other medical professionals are trained for the next generation. The Institutional Strengthening programme is a partnership involving CRS, the University of Notre Dame of Haiti, St. François de Sales Hospital, the University of Maryland School of Nursing and the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Institute of Human Virology.
CRS’s commitment to rebuilding St. François de Sales will culminate in a new 200-bed facility open 24 hours a day rising from the ruins. Priority areas include paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, internal medicine, surgery, orthopaedics and outpatient and emergency clinics. There will be many other services on offer and a new chapel will grace the hospital grounds.
Dr. Herby Derenoncourt is a Haitian physician and CRS staff member assigned to support the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince and St. François de Sales Hospital's board of directors during reconstruction and to develop the management and economic operations planning for the new hospital. The goal, he says, is to improve the entire Haitian health care system.
"This project at St. François de Sales is not only about what we're doing today, it's also about creating a model for providing quality care to the poor that we can use around the country, in the north and south," he says. "If this works in a country where the health care system is failing, it will become a model."
The new St. François de Sales Hospital will take about 2 years in total to build. Completion is expected in early 2014.
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