By Alexa MacLean, Global News
Chances are if you have a medical emergency in Canada, you’ll pick up the phone and dial 911 — but for people in third world countries like Haiti, a Caribbean nation next to the Dominican Republic, accessing health care isn’t that easy.
Haiti has devastated by Hurricane Matthew — the storm has torn through concrete walls and rooftops, and thousands of Haitians have been forced to flee for their lives.
Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph announced that at least 108 had died, up from a previous count of 23. But he gave no details.
That raised the hurricane’s overall toll across the Caribbean to 114.
Matthew mashed concrete walls and tore away rooftops, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee for their lives.
Dr. Roetka Gradstein, a family physician based in Halifax, has traveled to Haiti several times with a non-profit group of Canadian healthcare professionals called Team Broken Earth. They’re planning to go again to help with much-needed disaster relief.
“We’d set up mobile clinic in a local school or church and we would start seeing patients right away. When we arrived there were already patients waiting there, every time,” Gradstein said.
Her most recent trip was this past September where she traveled with a mobile clinic throughout the Haitian countryside.
“We went there to support local clinics and the physicians and nurses that work there year round. We had a small team of six volunteers, a family doctor, emergency doctor, paramedic, dietitian and a mid-wife,” Gradstein said.
Team Broken Earth was created after a group of Canadian healthcare professionals helped with disaster relief after the 2010 earthquake that decimated the country and claimed the lives of over 200,000 people.
“It started in Newfoundland after a man named Dr. Andrew Furey traveled to Haiti for the earthquake and couldn’t get the events out of his head when he returned,” said Marc Butler, Halifax operations manager for Team Broken Earth.
Since then the organization has spread across Canada and now includes teams from eight Canadian cities.
It’s an experience that opens the eyes to health care professionals who are in awe of how much the Haitian people achieve with minimal support.
“The Haitian team is amazing and they do so much with so little, it’s unbelievable how resourceful they are and so what we do when we arrive is just start filling in with help wherever there’s a need,” said Karen Burton, a registered nurse at the Halifax Infirmary.
The Halifax team already had their trip planned for the end of October but are now gearing up to assists with disaster relief in light of Hurricane Matthew.
“It didn’t hit Port au Prince, but all of the people that were effected are going to have to travel to Port au Prince for care so by the time we get there it’s just going to be crazy,” Butler said.