PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, CMC – The Paris-based international, independent medical humanitarian organisation, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has expressed concern at the temporary closure of several hospitals in Haiti, due to the kidnapping of doctors in recent times.
The health officials were being abducted as Haitian authorities dealt with an increase in armed clashes between rival gangs in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (Caricom) country.
“We are very concerned about the unacceptable situation of insecurity affecting our colleagues in Haiti’s medical community,” said Dr Samson Frandy, medical manager of MSF’s Turgeau emergency centre.
“The effects on the already weak health system are enormous, and this situation is putting a pressure on our centre which is hard to bear. Kidnappings for ransom that target many residents of Port-au-Prince, including medical personnel, are making it increasingly difficult for the population to access health care,” he said in a statement.
At least four hospitals have been temporarily closed in support of kidnapped doctors, and many patients from these centres are referred to the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency centre in Turgeau, which is overwhelmed by the situation.
On May 5, the St-Luc and St-Damien hospitals suspended their services after Dr Benetty Augustin, a paediatrician specialising in the care of children with epilepsy, was kidnapped on her way to work and on May 17, Jacques Pierre Pierre, the medical director of the State University Hospital of Haiti (General Hospital), was kidnapped.
The Bernard Mevs Hospital, one of the main hospitals in Haiti, in support of the Haitian Society of Paediatrics, closed its doors for three days to protest the kidnappings.
The MSF said that the closures have worsened an already difficult situation in a country where access to care is problematic for the majority of the population.
“We are doing our best to provide emergency care, but soon we won’t know where to refer the patients requiring further treatment. If health professionals continue to be attacked and targeted, Haiti’s health system may no longer be able to cope with the needs,” warned Dr Frandy.
During the April 24 to May 7 warfare between the “400 Mawoso” and “Chen Mechan” gangs at least 96 people were treated for gunshot wounds at MSF medical facilities in Port-au-Prince.
MSF had also suspended services on April 1 due to gang violence.