The fragility of Haiti’s healthcare system in the face of the coronavirus came into focus this week when the French Hospital of Haiti announced that, after more than 100 years of providing medical care in the capital, it will shut down its emergency room and quit admitting patients as of May 1.

The hospital’s medical director, Dr. Jean Venèse Joseph, said the final straw was when it took government officials 48 hours to test a 70-year-old patient with pneumonia for COVID-19, and staff realized they had neither the equipment nor medical gear to confront the highly contagious respiratory disease.

“You can imagine the panic that took place inside the hospital,” he said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince. “We realized that we are not prepared to confront the reality that exists.”

Private hospitals and nonprofit healthcare providers like the 60-bed French Hospital are the backbone of Haiti’s healthcare system. But those key players say they’re being undermined by the Ministry of Public Health and Population, which is leading the national response to the pandemic.
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