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Clinician Reports on Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts

Click for Haiti photo slideshow.

Dr. Paul Firth had little time to rest after his nonstop two-day trip to Haiti to assist on the USNS Comfort.

As soon as he boarded the ship, "I got a shower and some breakfast and started work," he said.

Haiti slideshow

The hospital experienced a surge of patients when it first opened, according to Dr. Firth -- more than 80 admissions on the first day, and more than 350 admissions in the first four days. His first priority upon arrival was to relieve the existing staff.

"Our first job was just to give these guys a break," he said. "In my initial role, the majority [of cases] were orthopedic, plastics and neurosurgery."

The next priority, he said, was to try to minimize the number of intubated patients.

"We focused on getting people extubated to decrease the strain on the ICU," he said.

In addition, he worked to make pain relief more efficient.

When he first arrived, "pain relief in the ward basically consisted of nurses walking around pushing morphine, which is very dangerous and very time-consuming, and it takes time away from the nurses when they could be changing dressings or turning patients," he said. "So after I arrived, we began to provide more peripheral nerve blocks."

The new process helped interactions between the ICU, the wards, and anesthesia, and enabled the systems to work more efficiently together, he said.

After the number of emergency surgeries decreased, Dr. Firth was able to turn his attention to data collection.

"Now that I'm back here, I'm assisting them in how best to respond to a major disaster," he said. He plans to collaborate with Navy doctors and advise them as appropriate. His research is currently awaiting IRB approval.

Dr. Firth went back to work immediately when he returned from Haiti.

"I got back at 2:00 in the morning because of the snow and got an email that said, 'We're a bit stretched at Mass General. Can you work today?' I slept on the floor of my office and then worked at pediatric endoscopy," he said.

The Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine has deployed other staff members, including Dr. Neelakantan Sunder, Dr. Akshay Dalal, and technician Tom Monaghan. In addition, the department sent physiological monitors and cables, anesthesia machines, and anesthesia gas analyzers. The OR donated an automatic tourniquet.

For more information on Mass General's response to the Haiti earthquake, including correspondence from staff and ways to help, please see Mass General's Haiti website.

Top: Haiti photo by Dr. Paul Firth.

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Office Information

Department of Anesthesia,
Critical Care and Pain Medicine
Gray-Bigelow 444
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Public Transportation Access: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes