Haiti nursing home patients receive some medical aid but still urgently need food

By Mike Melia, AP
Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti elderly receive some medical care, need food

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Relief groups brought doctors and medication to the ruins of a city nursing home Saturday, the first time its dozens of elderly residents have received significant care since the Jan. 12 earthquake. Still, caregivers said the residents continue to face a critical food shortage.

“They’re all right for an hour or two. There is nothing left for later on,” said Jeanty Frantz, a volunteer nurse, after the nursing home’s director brought enough mashed corn to feed each patient.

By the afternoon, they were hungry again and nurses did not know who would provide the next meal.

Since The Associated Press first reported on the plight of the residents on Jan. 17, some food, water and medication has trickled in. But relief organizations had yet to organize any large shipments or caregiving visits.

The changed Saturday as a team of 13 doctors funded by the Venezuelan government evaluated the patients, changed dressings on their wounds and promised to return the next day. The International Committee of the Red Cross also set up a first-aid tent to serve the elderly patients as well as the estimated 1,600 refugee families in nearby tents.

“This is an area with quite a lot of need, and not just for the old patients,” said ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno.

The World Vision relief group also says help is on the way. It visited the ruins of the Municipal home for the elderly on Friday to register patients and said it would begin delivering a month’s worth of food within a couple of days.

In the meantime, patients lay listlessly out in the open. One has not received any nourishment since slipping into a coma three days ago. Others stare numbly at the blue tarp over their heads.

“I am always hungry,” said Reynold Jean, an Alzheimer’s patient in his 80s.

The nursing home patients in the Bel-Air neighborhood had relied on food donations from the community, but that help vanished with the earthquake that leveled much of the capital.

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