As I mentioned previously, CHRISTUS’ 20-member team worked in Haiti from Feb. 20-27 and performed 85 surgeries, hundreds of procedures and outpatient visits and delivered nine babies.
We have since debriefed with team members who traveled to Haiti as well as with the task force that worked to identify and vet partner organizations in Haiti and select, organize, orient and commission the Haiti team. I believe our findings are so important that they are worth sharing. We will take these learnings with us if we pursue future trips to Haiti, and know they will also be useful when our facilities situated on the Gulf Coast face future hurricanes.
The principles of CHRISTUS’ successful mission in Haiti include:
• Command - From inception to operation (mobilization and demobilization), command of the task force and team in Haiti were clear.
• Control – Leadership established control via regular conference calls, daily operational updates and by ensuring the team was composed of the right number and type of personnel to meet the mission requirements. Span of control was maintained with appropriate number of workers to supervisors.
• Communication – Planned conference calls and regular communication before, during and after the mission facilitated information exchange and flow (up & down the organization, across functional areas and to/from external partners). This provided opportunities for real-time information to be passed on to appropriate teams so correct responses to changing needs of the mission could be anticipated and planned for and so the CHRISTUS family remained informed.
• Coordination – The coordination amongst partners on the ground in Port-au-Prince, between internal CHRISTUS departments, external government entities, and private resources was notably welcomed.
Members of the team that served in Haiti expressed an overall feeling of pride and accomplishment. They said that the team worked together flawlessly, and they were grateful for the opportunity to care for the people of Haiti. However, many also expressed angst over leaving so much undone, describing their work as a “drop in the bucket” of what would be needed throughout the city.
Almost all team members expressed interest in traveling to Haiti again, and many suggested that the task force consider sending another CHRISTUS team. It was also suggested that we consider a more long-lasting way to respond to disasters by working with CHRISTUS to identify early responders now. We are considering this suggestion and may implement an early response team to provide “intellectual capital” and care to devastated regions.
A few also expressed that one week in Haiti was not long enough, and that they were able to get into the rhythm of the work around the third day, but then had to leave 3-4 days later.
Team members expressed that CHRISTUS’ inclusion of chaplains in the team and their administration of spiritual care were central to our ministry there. “We not only operated on people, but were able to love and care for other needs,” one team member said.
While in Haiti, the wound care team started a Haiti Google group with suggestions and a list of items helpful to pack (sharpies, pens/paper, etc.). New team members emailed and posted questions regarding vaccinations, medications and what personal items to bring, and asked what they could bring to help families and what equipment was needed (connectors for wound vacs, sponges, etc.). This helped old team members keep in touch with local workers and continue the aid process from home.
Many believe that CHRISTUS’ leadership and organizational skills were pivotal to the work there. Team members unanimously expressed that the task force did a wonderful job, especially with organization and supplies.
Additional supplies they would like to have seen include:
• Postoperative needs such as wheel chairs, walkers and crutches
• Mosquito nets
• Additional walkie talkies or a way to facilitate easy communication between all caregivers and not just triage/ER staff
• More bottled water
• Foam hand wash (as there was no running water, we used antibacterial hand gel to sanitize our hands, but some team members felt it was sticky and made getting gloves on and off difficult)
• Extension cords
• Chux pads
• Drapes for tables
• Blue booties to use over dressings on feet
• Small autoclave
• Suction machine and canisters
Team members also mentioned that they discharged many Haitians to the streets, as they were without permanent shelter. They suggested continuing to send tents if possible.
Truly, our time in Haiti was just one more way that members of the CHRISTUS family lived out the CHRISTUS mission to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ around the globe. I am proud of each and every one of our CHRISTUS healers, and remain proud to be the team leader for CHRISTUS.