Prefab container hospital could bring a decade of healthcare to Léogâne, Haiti

The town of Léogâne, which was closest to the epicentre of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12 this year, has a brand new hospital. The last patients were transferred to the prefabricated containers in September, and the one remaining action to be completed was the inaugural ceremony.

Representatives from the Haitian prime minister’s office, the Ministries of Health and Planning attended the ceremony on October 8 and visited the hospital. MSF Switzerland’s President Abiy Tamrat also travelled to Haiti to attend.

Following the devastating earthquake, MSF teams were treating patients under canvas sheets and tents. While the new structure was being built, staff and patients had to be moved twice. The containers offered the possibility of being put together rapidly. It will also be possible to adapt this structure according to needs.

“We had to finish this as quickly as possible, before the cyclone season. Normally it takes a year to complete such a project,” explained MSF’s logistics operational manager Guillaume Queyras. It took five months from start to finish.

The containers offer a 1,700 m² surface, have a 120-bed capacity and include two operation theatres, radiology service and seven consultation room. The hospital cost 3.2 million dollars to build and operating costs, including the salaries of 400 staff, are estimated at seven to eight million dollars a year.

Child births and traffic accidents

In spite of the havoc wrought by the earthquake, the daily medical routine has returned to the Léogâne region. From March onwards, admissions recorded by MSF are no longer directly linked to the earthquake. Once roads were cleared, road traffic resumed and there were traffic accidents again.

“We see three to four road accident victims every day,” explained MSF’s head of mission in Léogâne, Stéphane Reynier Montlaux. “People travel a lot by motorcycle, therefore injuries are very serious. When a coach is involved we have dozens of injured.”

However, child births and related complications are at the core of MSF’s activities.

“They make up 80 percent of emergency admissions,” said Montlaux. The Léogâne hospital treats also victims of sexual violence and has a family planning service.

“This hospital is seen as a blessing by the population,” Montlaux continued. “Before the earthquake and our arrival here, the region had been two years without any health structure. There was a private clinic in Léogâne, but, in spite of huge needs, it went bankrupt. Not surprising when one knows that 70 percent of the Haitian population lives with less than two dollars a day and a caesarean section costs 125 dollars, for the medical act alone.”

Handover to the Haitian authorities?

The hospital’s useful life is estimated to be five years, ten if well maintained. MSF is discussing future maintenance or development with Haitian authorities, to either take over the containers or build a hospital on the same site.

“We held informal talks with the government. There is interest, but negotiations are just starting. We will insist that healthcare remains free,” said Montlaux.