Page last updated at 21:46 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Treating Haiti's stream of injured quake victims

By Adam Mynott
BBC News, Port-au-Prince

A Haitian quake survivor rests at a Port-au-Prince hospital after having her arm amputated, 18 January
Hundreds of Haitians have had to have limbs amputated

This, we are told by the international medics who have come here, is one of the better-organised hospitals in the city.

We are standing by the entrance, which has in effect been turned into a ward.

It is a quite extraordinary sight. There are people with injuries lying everywhere, some on beds, some on mattresses, some just lying on bits of cloth stretched out on the stone floor.

There are amputees here, people with their heads swathed in bandages and, right in front of me, a Cuban doctor is treating a young girl, Fleury Solange, who was crushed as she tried to run from a building when the earthquake happened.


She has a quite dreadful wound across her back.

They arrive here with gangrenous limbs because they are arriving very late and have often been under rubble for days
Cuban doctor

Medical teams from Spain, Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela and Chile are working here in very exacting conditions.

Ivan, a doctor from Havana, says Fleury Solange has now been stabilised.

"On the day of the earthquake, she suffered this injury to her abdomen," he says.

"She arrived here in a very bad state. We treated her wound and put this pipe in to try to drain her lung. She is a lot better but she is still in a critical state."

She is being looked after by her brother who, using a piece of cardboard, is fanning the flies away from her wound and from the drain that has been inserted into her lung.

He is very worried that, despite reassurances from the doctor, his sister is going to die.

The doctor says that one of the big risks now is that of secondary infection.

"Almost all of the patients who arrive here are septic," he says.

"They arrive here with gangrenous limbs because they are arriving very late and have often been under rubble for days."

Three hundred amputees

Outside the hospital, what once was the car park has been turned into an outpatients' department and there must be more than 100 patients here.

Many of them have been treated and could go home but, of course, they have no homes to go to. They were destroyed in the earthquake and every two or three minutes another patient arrives.

There is no functioning ambulance service so they are being brought in on the back of any available vehicle. A moment or two ago, one man came in on the back of a motorbike. It is a never-ending flow of humanity.

Daniel Rincon, a Colombian doctor with the Red Cross, says the injuries have been quite appalling, and international surgeons have been carrying out an average of about 50 amputations a day.

"Maybe 300 people have lost a leg or foot or some part of their body," he says.

"Our surgeons have been working 24 hours a day."

Dr Rincon says that, compared to other hospitals in Port-au-Prince, they are quite well-equipped with bandages, medicines and other materials but he knows there are problems getting vital medical supplies in through the airport.

"It is too complicated to land at the airport because there are too many flights arriving but we have been coordinating our work with the United Nations and that is making our job easier," he adds.

The Red Cross has been able to set up a system to purify the limited mains water supply but, in common with most of Port-au-Prince, and the rest of Haiti, no international food relief has arrived here.

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