Haiti Health Ministries – Haiti
The clinic serves indigent people in the beautiful, rural, rugged mountainous region west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Dr. Jim Wilkins and his team provide outpatient care with the support of laboratory, pharmacy, sonography, and radiology expertise. Patients are cared for regardless of their ability to pay. The Clinic also provides patient education and training of national medical workers.
The Clinic regularly receives healthcare profession students and resident physicians. They begin by shadowing clinicians, and then advance to caring for patients on their own, checking out each patient encounter with a staff member. Clinics usually begin with a 30-minute educational session, and students receive considerable hands-on experience. Participation in community health activities is also available.
Location & Community
Gressier, Haiti, is located just west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Like most of the island, it is a beautiful, rural, rugged mountainous region. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita income of about $400, in rural areas only $100. The people are 90 percent African, originally from Benin and Ivory Coast, and 10 percent Mulatto – French and African. Literacy is about fifty percent. There are not enough schools or teachers and most schools are private, though many families cannot afford to send their children since all schools require tuition, books and uniforms to be paid.
The staple Haitian diet is corn, cassavas, millet, rice, and fruits. People rarely eat meat, fish, milk, or eggs. Haitian economy is heavily dependent on farming, though only about thirty percent of the territory is suitable for cultivation. The principal cash crops are coffee, sugar, sisal, and essential oils. Coffee generates a third of Haiti’s income from exports. Sugar production has fallen dramatically because of growing local consumption and the production of rum.
Visitors arrive by plane in Port-au-Prince, where they will be met by a representative of the Clinic for the 1.5-hour drive to Gressier.
For current information please visit the Haitian embassy website appropriate for one’s home nationality. United States citizens can obtain current visa information from the website of the Haitian Embassy in Washington, DC. Americans can receive a visa upon arrival in Port-au-Prince.
Traveler’s Health & Safety
Visitors to Haiti should be up-to-date on all vaccinations, including hepatitis A, and malaria prophylaxis is generally recommended. One should consult with their personal physician before traveling, and refer to the CDC Travel Website for the most up-to-date health information. Travelers are advised to refer to the United States State Department Website for the most up-to-date nation-specific travel information, and to regularly review Current Travel Advisories.
Average life expectancy in Haiti is 61 years (78 years in the US), infant mortality is 76 per 1000 live births (6.7 in US), maternal mortality is 1000 per 100,000 births (12 in US), and yearly health care expenditure per capita is just $27 ($2765 in US).
People coming to Haiti Health Ministries are usually poor and are most commonly treated for intestinal parasites, diabetes mellitus, machete wounds, hypertension, malaria, dehydration, malnutrition, end stage cancers, and prenatal care. Inpatient care in Haiti is a last resort, but those in need are sent with a letter to hospital when unavoidable. The Clinic also cooperates with the Christianville Foundation to provide free care to the 1200 students in Christianville’s school system.
All Haitians speak Creole, a simplified form of French. About 10 percent speak French, the official language of Haiti. Translators are available in the Clinic.
Medical Care Services
Haiti Health Ministries opened in January 2006, and is a service of Haiti Health Ministries, a Christian non-profit organization headquartered in Girard, Kansas. The Clinic operates on weekdays and provides patient education and training of national medical workers, in addition to its primary focus of caring for indigent patients. Over 30,000 patient consultations are performed per year, and clinic services have grown to include laboratory, pharmacy, sonography, radiology, and minor surgery. Patients are cared for regardless of their ability to pay. Aid is also provided to those in need who require hospital admission.
Healthcare Profession Staff
The clinic has a staff of 15, including four physicians, three of whom are Haitian, an American physician’s assistant, and an American community health nurse. Dr. Jim Wilkins, the medical director, and Sandy Wilkins, nursing director, are from the American Midwest and have lived in Haiti since 1999.
The Clinic regularly receives healthcare profession students and resident physicians. They begin by shadowing clinicians, and then advance to caring for patients on their own, checking out each patient encounter with a staff member. Clinics usually begin with a 30-minute educational session, and students receive considerable hands-on experience.
Student Lodging & Meals
Housing and meals are provided at a near-by guesthouse. Linens are supplied and the showers are cold water only.
Internet access is available through the guesthouse.
INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to financially support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they provide opportunity for INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.
Beaches and resorts are readily accessible by bus on weekends.
Behavior & Dress
The weather is generally quite hot, and so the Clinic staff often wear operating room scrubs to work. Women prefer to wear skirts or short pants. Men dress in collared shirts and slacks.
What To Pack
Visitors should bring copies of all healthcare profession licenses, diplomas, or certifications. A carry-on bag should be packed that contains essentials items just in case one’s luggage becomes lost. Bring clothes appropriate for the weather. Haitian markets provide an unforgettable shopping experience. But any essential items should be brought from home, including flashlight, swim suite, personal medications, sunscreen, reading materials, and personal hygiene items.