Steady supply of medical services begins to pressure Haiti’s doctors
Jerry and Marlon Bitar are prominent Haitian surgeons, identical twins who have done everything together for all of their 48 years. They both studied medicine in France, returned to Haiti in 2000 to take over a clinic serving low-income patients, and built a separate private practice that has given them national prominence and paid the bills.
In the weeks following the deadly Jan. 12 earthquake, they worked 18-hour days side by side, performing 900 surgeries and amputations free of charge between both of them. And now, their lives are defined by the same split reality: « before the earthquake » and « after the earthquake. »
The Bitars ask what appears to be a simple question: How can the country’s medical structure be rebuilt when hundreds of humanitarian teams are still providing health care for free? The surgeons say they have no income — not from the poor and not from their private practice. For one, 700,000 people are now homeless with no access to funds. For another, the hospitals, the Bitars and others say, are finding it hard to compete with the visitors. With no end in sight, some of the nation’s doctors have already left, and others are considering leaving.
« We have not been able to make payroll for two months, » Jerry Bitar said. Marlon added: « I am very worried that many of our good doctors will leave. The humanitarian hospitals, they don’t ask for any money. Yesterday, I went to one and saw two of my private-paying patients getting treatment there. »