Friday, January 15, 2010

Caring for Haiti

The MGH rallies together to support those affected by earthquake in Haiti

Hundreds of mghers have ties with the island nation of Haiti. It is these individuals with whom the hospital now stands in support since the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged the already hard-struck country Jan. 12.

Upon learning of the horrific situation that particularly affected Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, MGH administration brought together key leaders to coordinate an emergency response. The group focused on two main objectives -- assisting hospital employees with ties to Haiti and coordinating medical volunteers to go to Haiti to provide much-needed support. Representatives from Emergency Services, Nursing, the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization (MGPO), Psychiatry and the directors of departments with considerable numbers of Haitian employees -- Materials Management, Nutrition and Food Services, Nursing and Environmental Services -- convened throughout the day Jan. 13 to identify how to best meet the immediate needs of affected employees and coordinate the hospital's medical relief efforts with federal emergency groups, Partners HealthCare and Project HOPE, an organization with which the MGH has had a longstanding relationship delivering medical volunteer help, medicines and medical supplies where needed.

As this issue of MGH Hotline is published, dozens of MGH caregivers have been deployed or plan to deploy to Haiti with these or other organizations, and additional volunteers from the hospital are expected to join in the international relief effort in the coming weeks. Five MGH volunteers -- three nurses, one pharmacist and one social worker -- left on Jan. 13 with the MA-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). Eighteen MGH physicians, nurses and other clinicians were deployed as part of the International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT) East, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's international clinical outreach team sponsored by the MGH, and a number of MGH staff will join relief efforts with Partners in Health, which has one of the only hospitals up and running in Haiti at this time.

Find more information about the various MGH groups deployed to Haiti

"We know that in this situation every single minute counts in saving lives," says Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, senior vice president for Patient Care and chief nurse. "There are hundreds and maybe thousands of people in Haiti who don't have long to live without medical assistance. We are urgently working around the clock to coordinate with our medical staff members who are courageously volunteering to assist however they can."

To provide support to MGH employees who have relatives and loved ones in Haiti, the hospital has set up a number of avenues for assistance.


With many telephone and some Internet connections out of commission in Haiti, individuals are finding it difficult to reach loved ones throughout the country. The MGH has made phone lines available for staff members who would like to try to contact family members and friends from a work telephone. Employees should speak to their supervisor to be directed to a designated line in their department or call Jim Candito, corporate manager of Information Systems and Telecom/Network Services, at 617-726-3366 or pager extension 3-3066 for assistance.

Telephones and computers also are available in the Employee Access Center, located on Bulfinch 107, between 7 am and 7 pm for employees to reach out to family members in Haiti. The U.S. State Department Operations Center has established a hotline at 1-888-407-4747 for individuals seeking information about loved ones, and has been set up for those trying to locate a U.S. citizen in Haiti.

Emotional and spiritual support

Members of the MGH Chaplaincy Department are always available for staff, patients and their families, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 617-726-2220. Employees also are encouraged to call the MGH Employee Assistance Program at 617-726-6976 to schedule an appointment with a counselor trained to provide specialized assistance during difficult times.

What MGHers can do to help

The MGH Development Office has established the Haitian Relief Fund to help support those affected by the earthquake. Donations by credit card can be made online at Contributions by cash and personal check -- payable to Massachusetts General Hospital with "Haitian Relief Fund" in the memo line -- can be mailed to or dropped off at the Development Office, Suite 600, at 165 Cambridge St. All money donated will support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Health care staff members -- including Patient Care Services staff and MGPO physicians -- interested in volunteering for potential deployment to Haiti are asked to contact Erickson at 617-726-3100. Those who call should be prepared to share their contact information, Social Security number and clinical specialty and should have a current passport. Caregivers trained in surgery/trauma, pediatric and perioperative areas, and those who speak French with previous global health experience are especially needed.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by the tragic earthquake in Haiti," says Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president. "The MGH has employees from across the hospital who call Haiti their home country, or they know or work with someone who is personally affected by this enormous international tragedy. The MGH is committed to helping those in need."

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