Out of the chaos, Haitian town gets new hospital

LEOGANE, Jan 26 (AFP) - In a humble office transformed into a rough operating theater, a doctor was amputating the toes from a one-year-old. Outside, the sound of moans filled the corridor.

But amid the misery wrought on Leogane by the catacylsmic January 12 earthquake, one good thing has happened: the Haitian town has acquired a new hospital, for the first time in more than two years.

Leogane, lying southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince, was 90 percent destroyed in the 7.0-magnitude quake.

The nursing school has now been transformed into a medical center where several international aid teams have gathered in a bid to help the stricken population.

"We've already treated 600 patients," said American doctor Josh White, adding that was without the morning's patients.

Before the quake "there was nothing other than the nursing school with 150 students. Now there are five mobile hospitals or clinics."

His mobile unit comprising a general surgeon, five orthopedists and a urologist are planning to stay for the next six months as the town's homeless struggle to rebuild their lives.

Outside the building in the heart of what was once a town made up of French colonial architecture, thousands have set up a makeshift camp thrown up out of sheets and bits of cardboard.

A Japanese team is also on the ground. They have set up a field hospital next to the school, while further down the street Canadian troops are running their own medical operation.

The town's only hospital, the Holy Cross, closed two-and-a-half years ago "due to misuse of funds," said Hilda Alcindor, a longtime member of the school's staff.

White said his team is waiting for "a climate-controlled mobile hospital with 50 beds and an operating room.

"But it's hard to get it here," Alcindor said. "It's powered by an 8,000 pound (3,600-kilogram) generator. We need a C-130 to transport it."

So for the moment most teams are working with what they have to hand as they await the arrival of further supplies, saying they have only seen a handful of UN Sri Lankan peacekeepers so far.

"Do you have a speculum?" asked one doctor. Another answered, "No but let me figure out how to make you one... Two spoons?"

"Sure," replied the doctor.

A nurse gave a big smile as she walked passed the door. "We just delivered two babies," she said, as one young mother cradled her newborn in her arms.

Outside, a young couple arrived with their son on a motorbike. His leg was encased in a makeshift splint.

In the sky, black clouds gathered.

"It's going to rain. We need tents and mosquito nets," said Alcindor. "This is a swamp area, imagine the number of mosquitos there will be." (By Daphne Benoit/ AFP)

MySinchew 2010.01.26