Group of about 30 from Eastern Health plan trip to help earthquake victims
Dr. Will Moores (left) and Dr. Andrew Furey push a patient on a stretcher through the rubble last summer in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Haiti. — Submitted photo
St. John’s orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Furey is looking forward to taking some vacation days in July, but he won’t be relaxing on a beach down south.
Furey and a team of about 30 health professionals from Eastern Health are all taking some of their annual vacation from July 15-23 to provide medical care for earthquake victims in Haiti.
Furey, his wife Dr. Allison Furey, and Dr. Will Moores spent more than a week in Haiti last summer working out of the ruins of a hospital in Port au Prince.
Furey went back there in January for a week and now a bigger team of physicians, nurses and physiotherapists is planning to go there next month.
“There’s still a great need for medical care for patients in Haiti, both related to the earthquake from a chronic injury point of view, but also day-to-day new medical issues are arriving, obviously, in Haiti just the same as here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and they don’t have the infrastructure and, oftentimes, the medical staff to provide proper care,” Furey said.
When they’re not involved in clinical duties, Furey said the team will educate the local health professionals they’ll be working with in Haiti.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to accomplish both of those goals,” he said.
Furey’s wife won’t be travelling with him this time because she recently gave birth to their third child.
Leading the team with Furey will be Dr. Arthur Rideout, a plastic surgeon, and Dr. Catherine Seviour, an emergency room physician.
Furey said he and Seviour, who have both been to Haiti twice, were talking one day and thought there’s no reason, given the talent that exists at Eastern Health and Memorial University, that they couldn’t put together a full team of medical professionals to go to Haiti.
“It’s great to be involved as an individual, but to put together such a great team like we’ve been able to do, it’s pretty special,” Furey said.
Eastern Health’s administration and the dean of medicine at Memorial University were very supportive.
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“And, hopefully, they will continue to be in the future, because we would like to do this again in six to eight months,” Furey said. “It’s not as if the need in Haiti is going to subside any time soon.”
He said the hospital he worked in last year has been completely demolished and is being rebuilt. “So, we are going to partner with a different hospital than we were at the last time.”
Furey said that hospital is fairly functional, with an intensive care unit and computed axial tomography (CAT) scanner.
“Of course, it’s nothing like the Health Sciences or anything like that,” he said, “but it’s much more functional than the kind of mass tents that we were in last year.”
The devastation in Haiti is absolutely remarkable, Furey said.
“It’s difficult to describe, to put in words. I mean, buildings are just pancakes and they represent mass graves. Obviously, no one survives from a pancake building.”
Furey said it’s the patients and how much they appreciate the help that keeps him wanting to go back.
“I’ve never talked to anyone who has travelled to Haiti since the earthquake who didn’t have some desire to return and help out,” he said. “It’s selfishly, very personally rewarding to help on that level.”
In St. John’s, Furey said, as the team prepares for the trip it’s a great morale booster.
“People are talking about it, rallying around, giving money,” he said. The team’s travel and stay in Haiti will be funded through individual and corporate donations.
Furey figures they’ll need around $60,000 to $80,000, but since they’ve never done anything like this with a large team of health professionals, that’s just a guess.
Anyone interested in supporting the mission can make a donation through PayPal on the website, www.brokenearth.ca.
The site contains information about the project, a list of the team members and sponsors.
“It’s a 100 per cent volunteer effort,” Furey said.
“Every member of the team is taking personal vacation time so it’s all outside of work and, obviously, it’s in the middle of our short summer which hasn’t started yet,” he said.
“We’d like to continue this through the health-care foundation, on a semi-annual basis, spend a week there, 15 to 20 members from Eastern Health every six to eight months. So, hopefully, this will continue.”