In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Taking no chances

I have been finding my feet here over the past week, but even at this early stage, I am learning a lot about health care in Haiti.

This country does not have many medical resources, so some things are done quite differently. Last Monday, I met a 3 month old with a fever. She had a runny nose and a cough and although she wasn't showing any signs of having a chest infection,the fever was high and it persisted in spite of the medications we had given to bring it down.

The following day, Mme Bernard, who is the head nurse here,took the decision to begin treating the baby with antibiotics. In the developed world, these medications are prescribed by Doctors; here in Haiti, there is a critical shortage of medical staff and so the nurses are permitted to prescribe a number of drugs, including antibiotics, on the basis of their own assessment of a child.

We are fortunate at God's Littlest Angels to be visited by a Paediatrician once per week. She examines all the new admissions and reviews children that we are concerned about. Dr Nathalie was in support of the decision to give antibiotics to our feverish baby and asked that they be continued for a week.

In Scotland, We we would probably have waited to see how the baby's symptoms developed. In Europe, most illnesses are viral and we are concerned about the overuse of antibiotics. However, experience has taught the Haitians that “waiting and watching” can be dangerous. Most families would not be able to afford a second trip to see a Doctor if their baby became sicker and the Doctors and nurses are very aware that malnutrition leaves many Haitian children vulnerable to severe bacterial infections, which develop slowly and then suddenly become life threatening. The child mortality rate is unacceptably high in Haiti and there are no Intensive care facilities for children at the government hospitals.

So although our little angels are fortunate to have access to basic medical care at their orphanage, we can't afford to take many chances with their health.

I am pleased to report that the baby we began treating with antibiotics last week is recovering well.

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