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Toronto (May 9, 2010) - Toronto Rehab is supporting its rehabilitation therapists in their humanitarian work in Haiti. They are working to provide physical rehabilitation services and education and training for Haitian health care providers and patients so that they will eventually have the capacity to help themselves.
Regular hospital funding does not cover this so the Toronto Rehab Foundation has agreed to support the costs associated with this work. In order to continue to bring rehabilitation expertise to Haiti, Toronto Rehab has launched a website where the general public can make a donation in support of the hospital's rehabilitation specialists.
On March 9, the first team of rehabilitation therapists from Toronto Rehab left for Haiti about eight weeks after a massive earthquake devastated most of the capital city of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. The 7.0 Mw earthquake killed an estimated 250,000 people, injuring hundreds of thousands and left millions homeless. The team, led by Michael Landry, a physiotherapist, and adjunct scientist at Toronto Rehab and an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto, flew into Port-au-Prince and then travelled to the town of Deschapelles. There, the four-member team made up of two physiotherapists and an occupational therapist and a nurse, treated patients of all ages and with multiple types of injuries at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer. (See below for a list of the other rehabilitation teams.)
"Our team assessed the complex on-ground situation in Haiti and the rehabilitation needs of survivors and it was decided, that while the need is great for rehab for all types of injuries, including amputations, that Toronto Rehab would focus its efforts and expertise on helping Haitians who have sustained spinal cord injuries," says Michael. "It is estimated that over 200 people in the country survived with a spinal cord injury suffered when buildings crashed down on them during the quake."
Toronto Rehab's team is working in Haiti with an organization called Healing Hands for Haiti, a non-governmental organization that has been on the ground since 2002. They asked Toronto Rehab to provide therapists specializing in spinal cord injuries to treat a group of about 20 patients in the northern town of Cap Haitien at a hospital called Haiti Hospital Appeal. Toronto Rehab is sending teams of rehabilitation specialists to Haiti in two-week rotations to help.
Before the earthquake, Haiti's health care system was virtually non-existent. There were almost no physiatrists – physicians trained in rehabilitation medicine – working in Haiti. There were only 12 physiotherapists and less than 50 rehabilitation technicians working in the entire country.
"Prior to the earthquake, a spinal cord injury in Haiti was a death sentence," says Michael. "A spinal cord injury is a very complex multi-system injury to treat because it involves more than the direct injury to the spine. Bladder and bowel infections and other complications resulting from potentially fatal pressure ulcers (skin breakdown in the paralyzed area), are challenging conditions to treat here in Canada – let alone in an earthquake ravaged country like Haiti with little existing health care infrastructure."
"Prior to the earthquake, there was a stigma attached to disability and people with a disability were often shut away from mainstream society. Now there are leagues of people with various types of disabilities in Haiti. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in Haiti have a disability. It is Toronto Rehab's hope that the work it is doing in Haiti will not only help save lives
and help injured Haitians maximize their abilities post-injury but that by bringing rehabilitation care to the country and hope to these Haitians, it will help change for the better the lives of Haitians with disabilities," says Michael.
To learn more about our teams in Haiti, visit our Rehab in Haiti blog. To see photos, go to our Facebook photo album.
Rehab In Haiti
Members of Toronto Rehab's rehabilitation teams
Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Team
Haiti Hospital Appeal (Healing Hands for Haiti) – Cap Haitien Team
Phone: 416 340 4636