More than a dozen public hospitals have stopped functioning in Haiti due to strikes by resident doctors and other workers. Conditions at public hospitals have been worsening for years, and workers have grown frustrated by a chronic lack of materials in medical facilities and unsafe working conditions that they believe threaten their patients’ lives. Doctors said that while “treatment is subsidized, patients are forced to buy the basics, including gloves and syringes.” If patients cannot afford to pay, doctors are often unable to help them. For example, Dr. Elizabeth Simon’s younger brother, James, who interned at Justinien University Hospital in Haiti as a medical student, had to watch a woman die because she did not have the $16 to purchase oxygen. Moreover, “operating rooms are filthy and power outages are common even during surgery.” This current crisis has drawn attention to the role of the state, non-governmental associations, and foreign aid in improving the country’s weak healthcare system. In the meantime, with most public hospitals closed, Haitians who cannot afford private healthcare are either out of luck, or have to travel long distances to receive treatment at the closest functioning public facility. Magalie Laurent, 48, had to travel two hours with two broken legs to receive care.
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