– Catholics are banding together to bring life-saving health care to rural areas of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world.
“The key thing that I saw was partnership. Catholic Medical Mission Board can’t do it alone,” Adam Kerrigan told Catholic News Agency.
Kerrigan is the Catholic Medical Mission Board’s senior vice president for partnerships. In an interview, he described the new hospital his organization helped build in Côtes-de-Fer on Haiti’s Southern coast.
“We work with the bishops’ conference, with the ministry of health, and with the community together,” he continued.
The Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Center for Health, named after the late board member of the CMMB and the former auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, opened on Haiti’s southeastern coast on Monday, providing health care to the area’s population who previously would have had to travel for hours to the nearest hospital for care.
After a catastrophic 2010 earthquake shook the country, most of the aid response focused on the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, Kerrigan told CNA.
In the wake of the earthquake “little attention was being paid to the Southern tier,” which was just as devastated as the north but harder to get to, Kerrigan said. The local bishop had asked the Catholic Medical Mission Board to bring supplies and volunteers to the area, which they did.
Bishop Guire Poulard was eventually moved to the archdiocese of Port-au-Prince but he still insisted that a hospital should be built in the south.
With the help of a $2 million matching grant from Mercy Health, a Cincinnati-based Catholic health care system, construction began on the hospital in Côtes-de-Fer in 2013. It will serve 50,000 Haitians in the region.
Child and maternal mortality is a big problem in the region, Kerrigan said, and the hospital will be primarily addressing the health of women and children.
According to recent UN estimates, Haitian women have “a one in 80 chance of dying due to pregnancy or child birth, compared to the region-wide risk of one in 510.”
“Nutrition is really poor there, they have really poor crops,” he said, and so in addition to “trying to get the moms to come to the hospital and deliver” where they can receive the proper care, the board is also working to improve nutrition and reduce anemia in the area.
Also, “clean, potable water is essential,” he added, as the water in the area has high salinity.
The hospital was a partnership effort between the board, Mercy Health, the local church, the community, and Haiti’s public health ministry, he insisted.
“The community was at the very base of this beginning. We assessed what their needs were as they told us, and worked with them on those issues. We have a really strong commitment from the community to work with us to improve their health overall.”
Americans were quite responsive to the fundraising for the $2 million, Kerrigan said, from individuals and corporations to foundations and health systems contributing.
A “team from the Mercy Health system of doctors, nurses” and other medical staff also traveled down to Haiti to help local staff, he added.
The board has also started a CHAMPS program, or “children and mothers’ partnerships,” in order to provide a health center and better sanitation, clean water and nutrition in the area.
The whole health care initiative will be a 15-to-20 year project, Kerrigan acknowledged. Over the next 10 years, dental and ophthalmology facilities will be added to the hospital,” CMMB stated, and future doctors and nurses will be trained at the center.
“It’s a long-term struggle to overcome the health needs of a poor, rural community. And Côtes-de-Fer can be a model for us for the rest of Haiti,” he said.