Today, in Tabarre, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, stands Haiti’s premier pediatric hospital: St. Damien Pediatric Hospital (St. Damien). Its healthcare programs are motivated by the gospel command to care for the sick and strive to offset the injustices of poverty and unemployment which make healthcare inaccessible for many poor people. Poverty imposes a tremendous burden of sickness and suffering on many children. In an effort to help these children, St. Damien offers all children, regardless of their social status, in emergent distress access to quality and dignified healthcare. Its overall goal is to provide exceptional health care for children, especially secondary and tertiary care that is not available elsewhere in the country, and its three main objectives include: 1.) diminish child mortality; 2.) provide high-risk maternal care; and 3.) combat HIV/AIDS. St. Damien Pediatric Hospital is currently the only hospital in Haiti providing high-quality, comprehensive maternal care, as well as pediatric care for children through the age of 15.
Fr. Frechette’s original St. Damien medical center operated from 1989 to 2006. Then, in 2006, the new and current75,000 square foot facility opened. It has 224 beds, including an 18-bed emergency unit, 10-bed pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), and nine-bed cancer center. There are specialty clinics and services available for chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malnutrition, sickle cell, oncology and cardiology, a 24-hour emergency room, critical care unit, infectious and non-infectious disease wards, pediatric hematology/oncology, surgery, neonatology, maternity, and dental. More than half of all patients are admitted for infectious disease such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV while 25% are admitted for non-infectious disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and kidney infection. Most patients who are admitted are also malnourished. Some are treated for months or years, if needed. The outpatient clinic treats 100 children daily providing acute and chronic care.
With an annual operating budget in excess of $5.7 million, St. Damien and its associated public health and community programs provide over 80,000 services to children and adults annually. In 2016, it provided 15,224 pediatric clinic consultations; 4,034 pediatric admissions; 9,297 vaccinations; 5,701 maternity visits; 2,089 baby deliveries; 3,076 neonatal consultations; 2,109 emergency consultations; 1,102 oncology consults; 72 new cancer cases treated; 1,449 surgeries; 3,478 HIV program consultations; 1,709 tuberculosis consultations; 657 malnutrition program consultations; 2,347 rehydration center consultations; and 4,344 dental clinic consultations. In addition, St. Damien Public Health Center provides education, preventive care, and immunization campaigns in the surrounding area. St. Damien currently employs 460 Haitians, including the Chief Executive Officer and National Director.
Leadership in Healthcare: St. Damien is the leader in pediatric and maternal healthcare in Haiti, providing services that are not available elsewhere in the country, and doing so consistently, even in the face of grave political instability and severe natural disasters.
• St. Damien is the only known healthcare center in Haiti that provides treatment and oncology care for children, including arranging for radiation services offered in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
• It is also the only hospital in Haiti that provides heart surgery. In March 2015, the first 11 heart surgeries ever performed in Haiti were performed at St. Damien. In 2016, 150 cardiac screenings and an additional 11 heart surgeries were performed.
• St. Damien’s malnutrition program treats children up to five years old in order to combat Haiti’s alarmingly high rate of malnutrition (17,500 children under the age of five were reported to be acutely malnourished before the January 12, 2010 earthquake). Currently, the hospital is supporting the treatment of 1,000 children per year.
• On January 12, 2010, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, causing 220,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries and leaving 1.5 million people homeless. St. Damien was one of the only hospitals left standing in the greater Port-au-Prince area. The NPH Haiti family suffered the tragic loss of staff, volunteers and family members. Despite these losses, with support from international donors, St. Damien became a trauma center for the community at large and expanded to include maternity, neonatal, and surgical and oncology programs. Over the course of 2010, it assisted more than one million people.
• In October of the same year, a cholera outbreak resulted in over 700,000 cases, nearly 400,000 hospitalizations and more than 8,500 deaths. St. Damien quickly launched a treatment center and has served more than 123,000 victims - almost one-third of all hospitalized cases.
• Between March and August 2016, during a strike at all governmental hospitals, St. Damien continued operating, offering continuous care to those in need. During the first three months, the hospital persevered as it experienced up to a 25% increase in patients.
• St. Damien promotes female empowerment and leadership. Run almost entirely by women – from its Executive Director, Dr. Jacqueline Gautier, to its many physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners – St. Damien is providing meaningful training and employment to many Haitian women.
• St. Damien is doing more than its part to meet the incredible need for pediatric healthcare and alleviate human suffering in Haiti. Even so, there is still a critical shortage of pediatricians in the country – approximately 300 pediatricians serving three million children under five year old. To address this enormous challenge, in 2013, St. Damien established a residency program. To date, the program has graduated 12 new pediatricians. St. Damien currently has 21 pediatric residents in training. St. Damien is currently training two pediatric surgical fellows, doubling the number of pediatric surgeons in the country. In addition, St. Damien resident graduates are in fellowships around the world including pediatric cardiology, intensive care, and endocrinology.
• St. Damien partners with the St. Damien Collaborative (the signatories of this nomination) for the purpose of developing staff and raising the level of care in Haiti. The collaborative provides bidirectional (U.S.-Haiti) resident education; provides in-country clinical services and education for physicians, nurses, and allied healthcare personnel; develops clinical pathways to improve care and efficiency in the emergency room and intensive care unit; funds training for the first Haitian pediatric cardiologist; and facilitates equipment donations and training.