On 12 January 2010 an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter magnitude scale struck close to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The quake hit late at night Israeli time, and by early morning an assessment crew was in the air.
“The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) reports and personal communications clearly indicated that there was no local medical infrastructure to serve as a referral center and that no field hospital already deployed in Haiti had advanced capabilities (such as intensive care unit, imaging, and laboratory facilities). Furthermore, reported Drs. Yitshak Kreiss, Ofer Merin, Elhanan Bar-On, -among others-, we understood that delegations expected to arrive would be bringing light hospitals and clinical facilities; therefore, we decided to transport a sophisticated field hospital capable of providing advanced care. We expected that the light hospitals and clinics could care for the vast majority of patients and that we could provide most of the functions of an acute-care hospital. The key factor that enabled rapid response during the early phase of the disaster from a distance of 6000 miles was a well-prepared and trained medical unit maintained on continuous alert.”
On January 14, two 747 jets leased from El-Al took off from Israel carrying a 220-person delegation made up of volunteers, doctors and soldiers and including aid packages the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Magen David Adom and the Israeli Police.
“We brought all hospital supplies; a fully stocked pharmacy, including sufficient oral antibiotics to be distributed on discharge; imaging machinery; a laboratory that could perform blood tests and urine chemistry, hematology, blood gases, and microbiology analyses; and autoclaves for sterilization. Energy sources (generators) and accommodations (tents and latrines) were also brought from Israel. This crucial effort was carried out by a highly trained, skilled logistics unit of 109 personnel, including computer and communication specialists, security staff, kitchen staff, carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, electricians, and a burial team.”
“The first few days required us to concentrate our efforts on treating injuries caused directly by the earthquake, and so we transformed one orthopedic treatment station into a surgical unit with full anesthetic and monitoring capabilities, thus doubling our surgical capacity. We also shifted medical staff members, especially nurses, from nonsurgical units to general and orthopedic surgery units. At the time of peak pressure, a Colombian military surgical team was incorporated into our staff; as a result, 3 to 4 operating tables were occupied around the clock. A few days later, when patients with less urgent medical needs began arriving, we again readjusted staff assignments, organization of the units, and the policy of hospitalization.”
During its stay in Haiti, the delegation treated more than 1110 patients, conducted 319 successful surgeries, delivered 16 births including three by sections and saved many from within the ruins. The mother of the first baby born in the hospital named her son Israel.