Reflections from Haiti – Dr. Dan Snyder, Dessalines Hospital
We are seeing a lot of emotional trauma and misinformation. The country as a whole is spending three days in government-mandated time off and prayer. Preachers in the country are frequently preaching non-biblical messages. One example is: the reason the earthquake happened is because we as a Haitian people knew we lived in an earthquake area and should have built our homes with wood. But instead we ignored this and built with brick and iron, and God is punishing us for this. (In other words, we ignored “common sense” recommendations and God is punishing us.)
Pastor Robenson was in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake hit. He was waiting to meet with Jeanne (Acheson-Munos) when he received a phone call from his girlfriend asking him to meet her. … The earthquake hit as he turned to leave FOHO; he saw the building going down. His girlfriend is a nursing student, and only she and one other classmate who were not in the downtown school building survived – 85 died. Jean Castel, our hospital administrator of 23 years, lost his oldest daughter and multiple other family members. Leon, our accountant, lost six family members. Sydney, our pharmacist, lost 16 members of his family … and on. The hospital has set up a counseling program for any patient who arrives and agrees to see our chaplains.
I have only had interactions with a few staff members so far but none of them are sleeping well or functioning very well. I have never seen them like this. A huge support for them is going to be feeding, building construction and health care; however the pastoral staff also need their emotional and spiritual issues addressed. Basic education of the Biblical message concerning pain and suffering should be part of the process to thwart the misinformation circulating in country.
Dessalines was very busy the first 2-3 weeks treating earthquake trauma victims. We are now seeing mostly follow up patients and are shifting into the more routine care. The obvious problem is that many do not have funds for payment. These are in categories: first those who were in the earthquake and have lost everything and are living in the street or in a U.N. tent in Port-au-Prince or with a local family or friend, all of whom are coming for health care. Second are the local families themselves who are having to feed and support friends and relatives and are already broke due to the economic stress of this situation. The hospital earlier made an announcement that they would treat earthquake victims for free for one month.