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U.N. Told Doctors to Let Haitians Die

U.N. Told Doctors to Abandon Patients in Haiti

CNN
January 17, 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ngbdc31VSYw

Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after a Belgian medical team evacuated the area, saying it was concerned about security.

The decision left CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta as the only doctor at the hospital to get the patients through the night.

CNN initially reported, based on conversations with some of the doctors, that the United Nations ordered the Belgian First Aid and Support Team to evacuate. However, Belgian Chief Coordinator Geert Gijs, a doctor who was at the hospital with 60 Belgian medical personnel, said it was his decision to pull the team out for the night. Gijs said he requested U.N. security personnel to staff the hospital overnight, but was told that peacekeepers would only be able to evacuate the team.

He said it was a “tough decision” but that he accepted the U.N. offer to evacuate after a Canadian medical team, also at the hospital with Canadian security officers, left the site Friday afternoon. The Belgian team returned Saturday morning.

Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after a Belgian medical team evacuated the area, saying it was concerned about security.

The decision left CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta as the only doctor at the hospital to get the patients through the night.

CNN initially reported, based on conversations with some of the doctors, that the United Nations ordered the Belgian First Aid and Support Team to evacuate. However, Belgian Chief Coordinator Geert Gijs, a doctor who was at the hospital with 60 Belgian medical personnel, said it was his decision to pull the team out for the night. Gijs said he requested U.N. security personnel to staff the hospital overnight, but was told that peacekeepers would only be able to evacuate the team.

He said it was a “tough decision” but that he accepted the U.N. offer to evacuate after a Canadian medical team, also at the hospital with Canadian security officers, left the site Friday afternoon. The Belgian team returned Saturday morning.

Gupta — assisted by other CNN staffers, security personnel and at least one Haitian nurse who refused to leave — assessed the needs of the 25 patients, but there was little they could do without supplies.

More people, some in critical condition, were trickling in late Friday.

“I’ve never been in a situation like this. This is quite ridiculous,” Gupta said.

With a dearth of medical facilities in Haiti’s capital, ambulances had nowhere else to take patients, some of whom had suffered severe trauma — amputations and head injuries — under the rubble. Others had suffered a great deal of blood loss, but there were no blood supplies left at the clinic.

Gupta feared that some would not survive the night.

He and the others stayed with the injured all night, after the medical team had left and after the generators gave out and the tents turned pitch black.

Gupta monitored patients’ vital signs, administered painkillers and continued intravenous drips. He stabilized three new patients in critical condition.

At 3:45 a.m., he posted a message on Twitter: “pulling all nighter at haiti field hosp. lots of work, but all patients stable. turned my crew into a crack med team tonight.”

He said the Belgian doctors did not want to leave their patients behind but were ordered out by the United Nations, which sent buses to transport them.

“There is concern about riots not far from here — and this is part of the problem,” Gupta said.

There have been scattered reports of violence throughout the capital.

“What is striking to me as a physician is that patients who just had surgery, patients who are critically ill, are essentially being left here, nobody to care for them,” Gupta said.

Sandra Pierre, a Haitian who has been helping at the makeshift hospital, said the medical staff took most of the supplies with them.

“All the doctors, all the nurses are gone,” she said. “They are expected to be back tomorrow. They had no plan on leaving tonight. It was an order that came suddenly.”

She told Gupta, “It’s just you.”

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