February 1, 2010

Jhpiego helps reopen, restock maternity ward in Haiti

A health care team from Jhpiego, a Johns Hopkins affiliate focused globally on maternal and child health, is on the ground in Haiti, working to restore safe and quality health care services for pregnant women, new mothers and their babies.

Since three health care workers from the organization’s Baltimore office joined their Haitian colleagues in Port-au-Prince about 10 days ago, the team has provided organizational support to reopen the maternity ward at General Hospital, the largest hospital in the capital, and helped replenish medical supplies for the ward.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that there are 63,000 pregnant women in the earthquake-affected areas and that 15 percent are likely to have potentially life-threatening complications. An estimated 7,000 are expected to deliver in the next month, according to the agency.

Jhpiego is providing “return-to-work” support for Haitian medical staff so the maternity ward can operate with a complement of doctors, nurses and midwives trained in obstetrics care. Until now, pregnant women brought to General Hospital were delivering their babies in tents on the hospital grounds, and a small contingent of overworked nurses and birth attendants were providing care.

Reopening the maternity ward at General Hospital would put three operating rooms in service and reduce the risk of infection, which is difficult to manage in tents.

Lucito Jeannis, Jhpiego’s country director in Haiti, said that the administrators of General Hospital said that Jhpiego’s long experience in Haiti was “critical to their commitment to work side by side in renewing the maternity ward.”

Before the earthquake hit, Haiti had the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere—670 deaths per 100,000 live births—and that ratio is likely to increase unless a network of trained health workers can care for pregnant women, mothers and babies in a safe and sanitary environment.

Jhpiego staff members, including three OB/GYNs, a nurse and other health care professionals, are working from the organization’s office in Port-au-Prince. Their work is being chronicled in the blog “On the Ground in Haiti” at http://blog.jhpiego.org.