THE HOSPITAL

Hospital has no electricity, nearly no supplies

An injured girl sits in the shade outside L'Hôpital Generale.
An injured girl sits in the shade outside L'Hôpital Generale. (Nikki Kahn/the Washington Post)
Saturday, January 16, 2010

Under the mango tree they lie, the dead and the barely alive. For three days, the tree's branches have been the only shelter for Verneille Elphise, whose friends carried her to L'Hôpital Generale with her left foot dangling from her ankle by a few strands of flesh.

"Maybe it would be better if I just died," Elphise says.

Here at Port-au-Prince's largest state hospital, there is no electricity and no backup generator; no doctors from wealthier nations. Supplies of antiseptic, surgical masks, gloves, syringes and painkillers are sapped or nearly gone.

One doctor with weary eyes collects the few squirts of antiseptic he can find in a soda bottle. He splints wounds with cardboard scavenged from garbage heaps.

The wounded call to him: a woman whose leg was chopped off at mid-calf, children with missing hands. As many as 3,000 victims are here, though no one has had time to count. More arrive every minute.

The dead come here, too. They are laid out in the brutal Haitian sun behind the hospital, hundreds of them rotting in wretched piles.

Finally, as the sun rises to its highest point Friday, Elphise spots a nurse heading her way. She props herself on an elbow and manages a wan smile. The nurse lifts the bloodstained rag covering Elphise's wound, shakes his head and walks away without a word.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia


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