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Doctors reopen Haiti hospital, begin surgery indoors

Haiti, January 21, 2010

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Hal Bernton

The Seattle Times
January, 2010

A medical team led by a Silverdale doctor has helped to reopen a Port-au-Prince hospital, moved the patients back inside and started operating on broken bones often complicated by infections.

A medical team led by a Silverdale doctor has helped to reopen a Port-au-Prince hospital, moved the patients back inside and started operating on broken bones often complicated by infections.

"The good news is we're making a dent," Dan Diamond said Thursday by telephone from Haiti. "We really think that we are going to not only save lives but save limbs."

Diamond, who went to Haiti with the Northwest-based Medical Teams International, said the hospital was initially condemned after the Jan. 12 earthquake. A second assessment showed it was safe for occupation.

The medical teams are using two operating rooms, though it's a scramble to find enough diesel fuel to keep electrical generators operating. The teams also are handing out emergency health packages.

In the days ahead, field clinics set up at tent cities throughout the earthquake zone will refer some of the most seriously injured or ill patients to the hospital.

Other Northwest-based aid workers also reported progress in Port-au-Prince.

World Vision, based in Federal Way, has distributed 2,000 metric tons of food and more than 6,000 tarps, and 37,000 water containers and other supplies, and is assisting orphanages damaged by the quake.

Portland-based Mercy Corps is inspecting water systems. On Thursday, Mercy Corps workers found one well system able to serve some 20,000 people safely with the aid of chlorine.

The disaster that affected 2 to 3 million people continues to create a desperate situation and security remains a big issue.

In a briefing Thursday, Joy Portella, a Mercy Corps staffer based in Seattle, said there were reports that some food distributions by other nonprofits had to be halted because of threats of looting and violence.

Meanwhile, Washington families with missing loved ones continued to monitor a rescue effort at the collapsed Hotel Montana, where many people were trapped in the rubble.

Walt Ratterman, 57, the founder of a renewable-energy nonprofit in the southwest Washington town of Washougal in Clark County, is believed to be one of those inside. Briana Ratterman, his daughter, said rescue efforts continued, with tunneling from the bottom and the top of the unstable rubble pile.

Briana Ratterman said her father had helped install solar-energy systems at health clinics and had gone down to Haiti to work with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"He sent an e-mail about 15 minutes before the quake, about having a meeting with his Haitian colleague," Briana Ratterman said. "They are missing."

Lucy Vaughters, a physician assistant in Edmonds, said her brother, Kansas City pediatrician Frank Vaughters, also appears to have been at the Hotel Montana during the quake.

Frank Vaughters had started a family-planning clinic that served more than 7,000 people in Haiti, his sister said.