The sight of an ambulance with a blaring siren rushing to help someone in need of urgent medical care is a rare occurrence in Haiti. According to a Health Ministry official, in emergencies people either “wait for someone with a car to take them, or even a motorcycle or a tap-tap, the pickup-truck taxis you see everywhere” to take them to a hospital.
Haiti did not have an ambulance service prior to the earthquake in 2010. Since then, the small fleet of ambulances donated to the government is mostly not in operation due to budgetary constraints. So, although Haiti has an emergency public access telephone number to request an ambulance there is little chance one will be dispatched. The smattering of ambulances owned and operated by private organizations, such as the Red Cross, United Nations, and Doctors Without Borders are used mostly for inter-facility transfers, but are not available to the public for emergency/trauma care and transportation. Safe emergency transport of patients in the Haitian countryside is virtually non-existent.
Trauma patients are six-times more likely to die in low-income countries like Haiti than in rich ones. Indeed, the average 250,000 automobile accidents and emergencies a year in Haiti result in 4,500 deaths because fewer than two percent of victims receive emergency care and transportation to a medical facility. A prime example of the critical need for emergency transportation occurred in October, 2016 during the Haitian president’s visit to a remote region to inspect the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew. An automobile in his motorcade was involved in an accident. Two bodyguards were seriously injured. Since no ambulances were available locally, EMS in Port au Prince was summoned. It took four hours for an ambulance to respond to the scene even though the request was made by the president. Another example occurred in April, 2017 when returning from a medical mission in the foundation’s ambulance, the medical team on board came upon the scene of a terrible automobile accident. A young woman with serious head and neck trauma had been hopelessly laying on the side of the road for more than an hour. Our doctors stabilized her condition as the ambulance rushed to the nearest hospital many miles away over typically rough Haitian roads. She lived. From all accounts, however, she would not have survived otherwise.
The shortage of specially equipped vehicles available to render emergency acute care to stabilize patients with serious illnesses and injuries and transportation to a medical care center, therefore, is a major problem in Haiti.
The foundation operates an ambulance for its periodic mobile medical missions in Haiti. Recognizing a demand for emergency medical care and transportation service despite the level of poverty, the foundation began offering limited paid emergency transportation to the public. No patient has been refused due to their inability to pay. Based on the favorable reception of the service, the foundation seeks funding to expand it with the purchase of a second ambulance and the hiring of two paramedics and two assistants to provide emergency care.
The foundation presently relies on donor funding to support its medical mission project. The provision of this vital ambulance service will create a source of revenue that will transform the foundation from a solely donor-driven organization to a financially self-sustaining enterprise, thereby assuring its long-term growth and ability to deliver quality healthcare in Haiti.
The late model ambulance we seek to purchase – preferably a 4-wheel drive vehicle equipped with a stretcher and AED – will cost approximately $15,000 – $20,000. The anticipated monthly gross income of $2,500-$3,000 from the service will be used to pay the cost of vehicle maintenance, fuel, insurance, supplies and salaries of the two paramedic and assistant teams for each ambulance, and the salary for a manager/dispatcher. The balance will be used to sustain the foundation’s mobile medical missions.
The foundation seeks $25,000 to accomplish its goal of helping the Haitian people.