By Jacqueline Charles for The Miami Herald

Gasping for air, patients in Haiti infected with the coronavirus are dying in ambulances after being unable to find a hospital to admit them. One of the few hospitals that does accept COVID-19 patients recently announced that it will stop taking them until further notice.

“We are still saturated,” said Dr. Marc Edson Augustin, the medical director of St. Luke Hospital in Port-au-Prince. “As soon as a bed gets available whether by a patient being discharged home or a death, it gets occupied. The strain is real.”

The sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths in poverty-stricken Haiti is not only placing a strain on an already weak health system, it has led to a demand for ramped-up international support, the head of the World Health Organization’s Americas office said Wednesday.

“There is… a mounting need for resources from the international community to urgently expand care for severe COVID-19 cases in Haiti,” Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, said. “This includes the outfitting of new spaces to manage patients as well as the procuring of supplies, needed equipment and oxygen.”

After more than a year of reporting few cases, Haiti is experiencing a deadly wave of infections after detecting two highly contagious variants of the virus — one first found in the United Kingdom and the other in Brazil. With still no access to COVID-19 vaccines, Haitians are panicking as hospitalizations have spiked, the price of oxygen has skyrocketed and the virus has killed several notable personalities in recent days — among them a former senator, a former president of the elections commission, a former coordinator of the national disaster and emergency preparedness office, and the current head of the pension agency. continue reading

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