International Medical Corps

The International Medical Corps health clinic in the Tabarre tent camp on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, a well developed camp on its way to being dominated by actual structures rather than tents, provides primary care to the camp residents, and anyone else who finds their way to it. According to Crystal Wells, International Medical Corp’s Communications Officer in Haiti, these primary health care clinics, there are two others in the Port-au-Prince area, one at the Petionville Club Camp, also known as JPHRO, or Sean Penn’s Camp, and another at St. Bernadette’s Church in Martissant, deal primarily with common Haitian health issues, such as malaria and diarrhea, as well as chronic issues like hypertension.

Initial patient waiting area

The clinics, staffed almost entirely by Haitians, also act as an entry point to the cholera treatment system. They are set up to diagnose the disease and immediately provide hydration fluids, in the form of an iv, if necessary, before transferring the patient to a site that can provide higher level care.

The local staffing is a hallmark of  International Medical Corps (www.internationalmedicalcorps.org), whose mission statement is “From Relief to Self-Reliance”. Dr. Robert Simon founded International Medical Corps in 1984 as a response to the destruction of Afghan medical care by the 1979 Soviet invasion. Having established medic training centers in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, International Medical Corps recruited Afghan medic trainees from the remotest areas of Afghanistan. After a nine month course of training, these medics then returned to their communities with a stock of equipment, supplies and medications to set up clinics. International Medical Corps has now established this model of self-reliant health care in more than fifty countries across the world.

A local International Medical Corps staff member checks a patient's blood pressure

The care procedure at the clinics is a well oiled machine. Patients, with the exception of emergency cases, are seen in the order of their arrival. Their first stop is with a nurse, who takes their blood pressure and temperature, weighs them and asks them why they have come to the clinic. Once the reason for the visit is established, the patient goes to a second waiting area consisting of a row of benches. The patient then waits their turn to get a vaccination, see a doctor, or see a mental health worker. The last stop is the pharmacy, where the patient picks up any drugs that have been prescribed. There is no charge for the care provided.

A local International Medical Corps staff member vaccinates a child

During the hour or so I spent at Tabarre, about 30 or 40 patients were in the process of being seen. A number of children received vaccinations. Two doctors each saw several patients reporting a variety of ailments. And there was one young woman who had given birth the previous day receiving fluids through an iv. A steady stream of patients also stopped at the pharmacy to pick up medicines.
One service I didn’t witness was International Medical Corp’s safe spaces for children tent, where teachers educate mothers and caretakers about the importance of play and affection in a child’s development. For that, I had to go to the Petionville Club Camp.

A local International Medical Corps staff member teaches parenting skills

The teacher sat at the far end of a large tent set up within the clinic building displaying a page on a flip-chart showing pictures of child, and parent-child, activities. With a very animated manner, she discussed the activities, among which were a child rolling a hoop with a stick and a mother teaching her child to walk, with the seven women and one man who, with their children, sat barefoot in a circle on the straw colored mat covering the floor. From time to time, a woman would ask a question and the teacher would enthusiastically respond, encouraging self-reliance beginning with the most fundamental of human relationships.

Postscript

Using the phone number Brillant got from her sister Rosemante, International Medical Corps located the woman in the Acra Sur tent camp who had been wasting away from an undiagnosed illness for a year or more  (See Acra Sur Tent Camp).  An International Medical Corps team transported her to the Hopital l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti (General Hospital), where Dr. Megan Coffee examined her and determined that she is suffering from tuberculosis (TB) (See Megan Coffee, M.D.).  The woman is now receiving treatment at the hospital and her condition is improving.

To see more pictures, go to www.vichinterlang.com.

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About vichinterlangphotojournalist

Vic Hinterlang has been a photojournalist for the past 25 years. He has worked in Central America, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel and the U.S. His photos have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, The Economist and The Texas Observer among other publications.
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