Earlier this year, Project HOPE partnered with the Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) to host a free 3-day training course in basic emergency medical care for local doctors and nurses. Held in the southern coastal city of Aquin, more than twenty doctors and nurses from surrounding cities gathered togethe r to learn and practice the basics of clinical emergency medical care. Using a modified version of the advanced cardiac life support course material, the training program included airway control, EKG interpretation, assessment, pharmacology and other resuscitative skills for cardiovascular emergencies.
Emergency care is a field of medicine that is often overlooked in developing countries, as the medical education curriculum in developing countries is predominately focused on diagnosis and treatment. This is also the case in Haiti where programs sponsored by international aid organizations typically place the emphasis on primary and preventative care – eg, family medicine, maternal-child health, and vaccination programs – or on more “vertical” programs that are focused on specific diseases, like malaria, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. As a result, medical professionals often receive little training in the basic skills of assessment, resuscitation, and stabilization for patients with acute, time-dependent emergency medical conditions. While primary and preventative health programs are essential services in any health care system, the need for training in emergency medicine is equally important. “Although primary health care is often equated with the delivery of preventive care, emergency care also has an important role in the prevention of further morbidity and mortality (eg, related to injuries and obstetric conditions). Therefore, it can be and has been argued that emergency care should be regarded as an ‘essential’ service and not solely as a luxury of developed countries.” Understanding the importance of emergency care in the context of the resource-poor health care systems in Haiti, Project HOPE was eager to partner with HRDF to enhance capacity building for the area’s medical professionals who regularly assess and treat patients with urgent medical conditions.
The program was one of the first of its kind for the area, and only one of a few similar programs in all of Haiti. Likewise, special effort was made to ensure that the training material and curriculum was accessible to the local providers, which made the opportunity to partner with HRDF especially beneficial. HRDF has been hosting similar training programs for several years, and has regular access to French and Creole teaching materials, as well as a wide pool of Haitian and Haitian-American medical professionals to conduct the training, thus making the content culturally appropriate.
We’ve been very excited to support the work of Dr. Castor and HRDF. They’ve demonstrated a long history of providing much-needed medical training in an area of the country that doesn’t have access to the same training opportunities that are available in Port-au-Prince. And, because HRDF is a Haitian organization with great support both inside Haiti and among the Haitian-American diaspora, it also ensures that the material remains culturally relevant – something Project HOPE considers a high priority.
Project HOPE and HRDF are currently developing follow-up training programs in the same area, looking to expand the scope of emergency training for doctors and nurses, as well as to improve the emergency equipment and supplies available in the same facilities where these doctors and nurses work. Finally, the two organizations are also preparing to begin training for prehospital emergency care for local community organizations in the near future, with plans to implement an alternative emergency transport vehicle system using locally available and appropriate vehicles, as well as a telecommunications component to improve access by reducing response times in the prehospital setting.
 Hsia R, Razzak J, Tsai AC, Hirshon JM. Placing Emergency Care on the Global Agenda. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2010 Aug.;56(2):142–149.
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