“Each breath she takes, every respiratory movement, is very painful,” said Dr Nathalie Colas, the hospital’s medical director, on a tour of the ward, where rooms were separated by thin curtains that moved gently with the Caribbean breeze and humming ceiling fans. As Haiti has been plunged into political turmoil by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise this month, the poorest country in the Americas has battled the pandemic against a backdrop of scant medical resources, lack of vaccines, and simmering street violence.
About 40 COVID-19 patients were receiving care at St Luke’s, down from approximately 100 during the past few months. That could be a sign that the pandemic is easing in the crisis-racked country, which still bears the scars of a devastating 2010 earthquake. In a cavernous warehouse, where supplies were stacked high next to an industrial oxygen concentrator capable of filling 40 tanks a day, Frechette paused at a spot where coffins were assembled with scraps of wood.
Frechette said there were many other factors at play, including an almost total absence of testing and vaccines, plus the raging gang violence that keeps many infected Haitians from accessing medical care. “We need them all the time,” he said. The death rate, among the roughly 800 COVID-19 patients treated to date, at the hospital was running at about 10 percent, Frechette said.
But it is almost impossible to know for sure, according to Father Rick Frechette, St Luke’s founder and president. “I can’t even guess,” he said. A patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) receives treatment at the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti Hospital, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 16, 2021
Haiti’s health ministry reported on July 6 nearly 19,400 total infections and only 487 deaths. But the numbers have not been updated since and many experts are sceptical of them. Haiti’s already under-resourced administration was plunged into chaos by Moise’s killing, which the government blamed on a gang of mostly Colombian mercenaries. A newly appointed prime minister said this week he would try to hold elections as soon as possible.
“The figures are wrong,” said Dr Ronald LaRoche, who runs Haiti’s DASH network of nonprofit private clinics that provide comprehensive medical services to some 40,000 patients for $10 a month. “We must have a higher contagion rate than the whole world,” he said, pointing to packed public transportation and crowded living conditions in the impoverished nation. A man walks past oxygen tanks at the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti Hospital, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
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