Saturday, January 16, 2010

For Haiti in a time of need

Like so many places in the world -- but especially hospitals -- we are full of people who want to help those in Haiti after the recent earthquake. We have dozens of staff members who are Haitian and are awaiting word about their families and friends. Folks here want to be involved in so many ways, and we are doing our best to make that possible, but in a way that is truly helpful in a crisis environment.

Here is our latest staff memo on the issue (with emails and phone numbers omitted or amended in the text to prevent web-based spamming from this blog post).

To: BIDMC Community
From: Lisa Zankman
Senior Vice President, Human Resources
Richard Wolfe, MD
Chief, Emergency Medicine

Subject: Phones and Computers for Staff, Resources This Weekend, and the Situation in Haiti and Ways to Help
It has been a long couple of days for staff here who have received both good and bad news about family and friends in Haiti – and for those who are still awaiting news. As the community gathered at prayer services today, the suffering of our colleagues, as well as the comfort of community was felt. The “not-knowing” has been difficult and the status of several BIDMC staff who were visiting Haiti at the time of the earthquake is still unknown. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all those who are missing co-workers, family members and friends. Thanks to all who are working to support those in need in our community.

Phones and Computers
Phone and computers are now available for staff to use on all shifts at no charge in their search for family members, friends and news:
West Campus
Human Resources waiting area (169 Pilgrim Road)
  • 4 kiosks with international phone lines and computers/internet access reserved for Haitian emergency use only
  • 2 additional computer kiosks
East Campus
Cafeteria Conference Room (2nd Floor at the back )
  • 6 international telephone lines
  • 4 computers
Any staff member who would like to provide assistance in these phone kiosk areas, please e-mail Stephanie Harriston-Diggs, Director of Volunteers.

Resources This Weekend
For staff and managers who many need extra support over the long weekend, the following resources are available:
Pastoral Care, Social Work and Employee Relations
– To reach these services, call the page operator to page the Administrative Clinical Supervisor: from inside BIDMC, dial 123 and select pager #*****, or from outside BIDMC dial (617) ***-**** and select pager #*****
Employee Assistance Program – 1-800-***-**** (available 24 hours a day)

The Situation in Haiti and Those Who Want to Assist
from Rich Wolfe, MD
Everyone at BIDMC has been trying to find ways to help the distressed Haitian population. Our leaders have been working hard to provide the best possible response in the most effective manner. There has been no shortage of volunteers, but in the short term more people, even health care providers, without the right support systems could actually worsen the situation.

The immediate problems are created by the lack of clean water, absence of law and order, and the collapse of the health care infrastructure. Without power, facilities and clean water, it is hard for any number of providers to be effective or even connect with the remaining health care system. There is no way to ensure food, water or safety outside of the few organizations that are on standby to deal with these crises. But there are ways we can help.

The need for supplies and medication is a growing problem. BIDMC has begun to collect the needed resources and find ways to deliver it. At present, simply getting these supplies to the population is a critical problem. The roads are often impassable, the airport is damaged, the port is unusable and there is not enough equipment to unload supplies. All of this makes it extraordinarily difficult to quickly deliver an effective response. We hope to have ways in the near future to deliver supplies.

As a part of the initial governmental responses, BIDMC staff are on the way to Haiti. Dan Nadworny, RN, from the Emergency Department was dispatched on Friday as a long standing member of the International Medical and Surgical Emergency Team or INSURT East. This team is part of a federal agency and is trained and equipped to respond to these types of disasters. Dan has promised to report back from Haiti to us about the needs and how we can best help. David Callaway, the BIDMC Medical Director for Disaster Management, was briefed yesterday in Washington and will be going to the Dominican Republic to work with Alejandro Baez, a former Brigham and Women’s Hospital attending physician who is coordinating the disaster response on the island. David will be performing a needs assessment as well and determining how our institution can best provide assistance and through what means.

Two of our staff (Jonathan Crocker, MD, Internal Medicine, and Judith Wagoner, RN, Operating Room) have volunteered directly through Partners in Health (PIH) and will be helping in PIH clinics that have not been damaged by the earthquake. We are working closely with PIH, whose clinics have been flooded by patients with crush injuries. The people onsite tell us that OR teams, particularly orthopaedics, are the resource most needed. Mark Gebhardt, MD, Chief of Orthopaedics, and a group of our orthopaedic surgeons have already volunteered and we are waiting to hear more from PIH about access.

We are also working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and state agencies to coordinate our resources with the other hospitals, to be as proactive as possible as the needs are fully assessed. In the meantime, we are stockpiling equipment and medication, and setting up a process to inoculate anyone going to Haiti to help.

Please let me know if you are interested in volunteering and what your specific clinical and language skills are. We will then be able to involve the people most suited as Partners in Health implements their response. The best way for you to volunteer as part of the BIDMC effort is to e-mail us at haitivolunteers [at] bidmc [dot] harvard [dot] edu. For those interested in going, you may want to consider receiving the needed vaccinations. The travel clinic has proactively opened extra clinics to accommodate relief workers and will have one scheduled with openings this afternoon. Finally the best thing we can all do is to donate to Partners in Health to support their efforts. You can donate through our own Grateful Nation at

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