CMMB opens Haiti hospital that was funded in part by Mercy Health

April 15, 2017


The Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Center for Health is located in Côtes-de-Fer, Haiti.

The Catholic Medical Mission Board has opened a hospital complex on Haiti's southeastern coast, to provide a mix of clinical care and public health services to the region. Cincinnati's Mercy Health is a primary financial donor to the project, and that system will have an ongoing role in supporting the facility.

The region is a desperately poor one with limited access to health facilities, said Dr. Dianne Jean-François, CMMB's country director for Haiti and project and construction manager for the hospital. Prior to the new facility's opening, the nearest hospital to Côtes-de-Fer was 90 miles away — it takes about three hours to reach that facility because of difficult terrain. About 50,000 people live in the region the new facility serves.

In addition to providing medical care, the hospital complex will provide stable employment and support professional development; it will "expose Haitian professionals to high-quality medical facilities and state-of-the-art practices," she said.

The 21-bed Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Center for Health in Côtes-de-Fer provides maternity services, pediatric care, primary health care, emergency care, general medicine and pharmacy services. The campus includes a guest house. Its service line gradually will be expanded to include surgery, orthopedics, dental services and ophlamology. In time, the complex also will include staff housing and a community center.


The hospital is named for the late Bishop Sullivan of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. A champion for the poor, he was on the boards of CMMB, CHA and Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy, and served stints as chair of each board.

The health complex will be the Haitian focus of a CMMB program called Children and Mothers Partnerships, or CHAMPS. That program supports health systems and puts in place economic empowerment initiatives that address underlying causes of poverty. The focus is on improving the health of women and children. CMMB is implementing CHAMPS in Peru, Kenya, South Sudan and Zambia as well.

Michael Connelly, Mercy president and chief executive emeritus, said that Mercy was attracted to the Côtes-de-Fer project in part because of its intent to link access to health care and anti-poverty programming. He said many global aid projects tend to focus on one type of aid — health care or education, for example.

"You see over time that the poverty cycle is not broken" under that approach, he said. "The concept of the new center is that you break the poverty cycle with a comprehensive approach." Connelly was chair of the CMMB board and played a central role in the development of the health complex and the CHAMPS program model.

Pharmacist Riphat Demar and his assistant Aristela Sterile, at right, provide medications to a patient at the hospital.

Expansive aid
In Haiti, CMMB's additional CHAMPS programming includes:

  • Water, sanitation and hygiene programs.
  • Health education sessions.
  • Community-wide vaccination efforts.
  • A health library and access to the Internet for health research.
  • The training of community health workers to provide health information, resources and basic care.
  • Mobile health care for remote areas.
  • Public health programs, such as the spraying of mosquitos to prevent viral outbreaks.
  • Medication distributions to clinics.

The Haiti iteration also involves economic empowerment initiatives for women, including an animal husbandry program in which families get goats for breeding, milk and meat. They agree to give two of the goats' four offspring, if they successfully breed four, back to CMMB, for other families. CMMB also gives seedlings to families in and around Côtes-de-Fer for home gardening; and they receive training in cultivating the soil. Crops include watermelons, eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes and beans. CMMB also has experimented with providing tabletop gardens, which require less water and may be preferred in times of drought.

CMMB also is piloting a microloan program for women served by other CMMB programming. It has formed savings and loan collaboratives in and around Côtes-de-Fer in which community members pool funds and make loans to people to start small business ventures.

Dr. Dianne Jean-François, CMMB's country director in Haiti, examines a patient at the new center for health.

Sparking fires
Mercy Health issued a $2 million matching challenge to CMMB to raise funds for the Côtes-de-Fer hospital project. CMMB met the goal with contributions from private donors, including individuals, foundations, Catholic health systems and other organizations.

Michael Hibbard, Mercy Health's vice president of information technology, is its lead liaison to CMMB. He assists with ongoing Côtes-de-Fer fundraising among Mercy Health employees.

He said employees' donations bought 369 goats for the animal husbandry program; and some employees have sponsored vegetable gardens for families in Côtes-de-Fer.

Hibbard said Mercy Health is exploring how the system can engage its associates more deeply in the project and "spark fires for others at Mercy."

Mercy is considering sponsoring medical missions and providing other opportunities for employees, physicians and managers to volunteer at the Haitian hospital. Connelly said the experience should awaken a deeper understanding of Mercy's mission and its service to vulnerable people.


Ministry partners
Other Catholic health organizations are providing monetary aid and/or medical supplies and equipment for the new facility. They are St. Louis' Ascension; Bon Secours Health System of Marriottsville, Md.; CHA; Catholic Health Initiatives of Englewood, Colo., and its KentuckyOne Health subsystem; Catholic Health Services of Long Island; Fidelis Care of New York; Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach of Springfield, Ill., and its ministry partners; and Providence St. Joseph Health of Renton, Wash.

Bruce Wilkinson, president and chief executive of CMMB, said, Catholic health organizations "expressing their global mission with CMMB makes perfect sense. The direct connection between our two communities forms an amazing bond of solidarity. Each community finds encouragement and energy as new relationships are formed around assisting the most vulnerable."

He added, "So many opportunities exist where U.S. Catholic health can play a significant role improving the lives of vulnerable women and children globally."


Haiti in acute need of health care services

The United States Agency for International Development says about 40 percent of Haitians lack access to essential health and nutrition services; only 45 percent of Haitian children are fully vaccinated; and 22 percent of children under 5 years old are stunted. A fact sheet from USAID says stunting is related to "undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies." The same fact sheet says stunting is "inversely related to maternal education level, with 34 percent of children whose mothers have no formal education stunted compared to 12 percent of children whose mothers have secondary or higher education."

According to Haiti's ministry of health, only about one-third of women seek prenatal care during pregnancy and only about 12.5 percent have a qualified health professional treating them during delivery.

The international development agency says an already-weak health system was worsened by a 2010 earthquake and a subsequent cholera outbreak. An October 2016 hurricane stressed the fragile health system further, according to information from Catholic Medical Mission Board.

CMMB chose to focus its response to such concerns by building a facility and programs in Côtes-de-Fer because it already had a presence there from prior aid work, according to information from CMMB.


Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.