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Joined forces: Improving Haiti’s difficult wound care situation

Chilean health care institute FINH and HARTMANN support healthcare professionals and patients in the Caribbean.

Over the past decade the people of Haiti have endured a succession of devastating extreme events. In 2010, the country was hit by a catastrophic earthquake that killed over 100,000 people, injured many more and critically damaged hospitals. Since then hurricanes, severe flooding and a cholera outbreak have exerted mounting pressure on a healthcare system already buckling under the strain.

Wound care is one of the areas where these deficits are most apparent, says Isabel Aburto, director of the Chilean institute, the Fundación Instituto Nacional de Heridas (FINH) - a leader in research and training in wound and ostomy management. Which is why FINH invited HARTMANN to join forces with them in their Ruta Solidaria 2018-2019 program, aimed at transforming wound care in Haiti.

Isabel explains: “I’ve had a strong relationship with HARTMANN for many years now, especially the team in South America. I knew that we had a shared mindset about improving wound care in Haiti –wanting to deliver sustainable change rather than temporary relief. HARTMANN has not only supplied wound care products for the program but also made it possible that Paulina Maffud, HARTMANN´s regional wound care trainer for Latin-America helps to deliver vital trainings in Haiti.”

Paulina was embedded in the FINH team of medical professionals, including surgeons, wound care specialists and even a business engineer specializing in healthcare cost management. Together, they have trained over 70 health professionals from hospitals and other medical facilities in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

The focus of the training has been on introducing best practice protocols for wound care together with education in the correct use of products for the different stages of healing. At the same time, the team has been treating a group of patients with severe wounds, using the very latest techniques and products. 

“In 2018 we came to Haiti on a fact-finding mission to see where the needs were,” says Isabel. “It was immediately clear that many doctors and nurses here are lacking in wound care expertise. Alongside best practice wound management training, we are also delivering training in treatment documentation, wound classification systems and how to manage their limited resources more effectively.”

The most common wounds in Haiti are venous ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and burn injuries. The typical treatment plan for these is to use iodopovidone as an antiseptic, but that can cause skin problems. And, until now, the wound care protocols also have not included cleansing.

The FINH team’s first step has been to teach the correct method for cleaning hands before cleaning wounds. The teaching then moves on to areas such as which types of wounds require surgical debridement and which dressings to use to ensure wounds are treated quickly and effectively.

Isabel adds: “Also essential for healing is good nutrition. However, malnutrition is endemic in this, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Which is why our program team also includes a nutritionist.”

As Isabel explains, the FINH’s and HARTMANN’s commitment will continue long after the program finishes in October 2019.

“Our main objective is to make sure the changes we introduce in Haiti are permanent. That’s why, with HARTMANN’s support, we’re going to maintain our relationships with the medical professionals here; and continue to give them the help they need to bring about sustainable improvements in wound care.”