Sunday, August 28, 2011
Today is the last day of the USNS Comfort's presence in Haiti. The ship will now sail home after five months conducting its training mission in nine countries. Besides helping people who needed medical care, the Navy's other goal was to improve its ability to work with governments and NGO's to coordinate health care. I am sure everyone learned a lot.
My last day working at the Navy's clinic was on Thursday. After the translators had checked in and were working, I was assigned to Discharge Planning. This unit referred patients who needed follow up care to providers in Port-au-Prince. The NGO's in Haiti had helped compile a small list of places patients could go to get help. Or, I should say, attempt to get help.
As an American nurse who was helping translate and refer put it, "This is depressing."
For one, many of the patients we saw clearly needed surgery. They had hernias, huge facial tumors, bone fractures that hadn't healed properly, terrible burn scarring, breast cancer that had broken through the skin wall, gynecological problems, eye tumors. These are people who would have been eligible for a surgical slot on the ship but with only 120 places, they filled up quickly.
Secondly, almost all of the patients we saw didn't have money to pay for follow up medical care, surgical or otherwise; that's why they came to the Navy clinic to begin with. I doubt many--any?--of them received any follow up care.
On the plus side, most of these patients left with some medications. I was also surprised at how many of the patients were able to write their phone numbers. We were collecting these in case a a NGO was able find the patient a place for surgery.
I am very happy for the patients who were able to be operated on or receive medical care on the ship. They are the big beneficiaries of the Navy's good work.