Perhaps the most ambitious initiative of our outreach efforts in Haiti was the construction and operation of a remote clinic in the village of Bouly. The village is located about 12 miles from our sister parish in Boucan Carre. With no road, the village is reachable only by an extremely rigorous six-hour trek that requires crossing the mountain and wading several times across the winding Artibonite River. Building the four-room clinic was a three-year process that involved acquiring the land, raising the funds, and getting construction materials to a project without a road.
After the clinic was constructed, the next challenge was finding medical staff that would be willing to work in such an isolated environment. In our earliest discussions we anticipated that staffing issues would limit the ability to see patients to three days a month. We were able, however, to attract the services of a nurse, Wilmark Jean Baptiste, to work full-time at the clinic. In June 2016, the clinic began receiving patients three days a week. Wilmark travels on Monday over the mountain to Bouly, sees patients Tuesday through Thursday, then returns on Friday. Later in 2016, Wilmark was joined by Dr. Olgenn Octave, who sees patients six days a month.
After providing a facility and staff, our next task was to acquire certification for the clinic from the Haitian Ministry of Health. The initial visit from the ministry staff occurred in 2017. It is likely that the Haitian officials had rarely, if ever, been asked to certify a clinic in such a remote area. The visit resulted in a temporary one-year certification that expired in late 2018. Included in the ministry’s report was a requirement that the Bouly clinic undertake a number of improvements. The needed improvements were both large and small, including an exam table for patients and the expansion of services to include vaccinations and examinations for HIV and syphilis.
Meanwhile, sustaining the clinic’s certification has been a critical component for a number of issues, including acquiring low-cost medicines and avoiding high tariffs when we bring equipment and other items through customs in the Port au Prince airport. We were elated in February when we received word that the Haitian Ministry of Health had renewed certification for the Bouly clinic for another year. We are now addressing a number of the findings from the initial report. In particular, we hope the addition of solar panels to the clinic, and the resulting ability to refrigerate medicines, will make it possible to provide critical vaccinations to area residents. The recent extension of the clinic’s certification was made possible by the persistence of our doctor, Olgenn Octave.
Here at home, we completed the second and final weekend of the annual Student Sponsorship that helps fund our primary and secondary schools in Boucan Carre. Results of the sponsorship drive will be in next month’s newsletter.
The next meeting of the Haiti Outreach Committee will be on Thursday, May 2, at 6:30 pm. in the library of the Sacred Heart School.