Although prehospital care is recognized as key in health systems development, it has been largely neglected in Haiti. The North East Department is one of the poorest areas of Haiti, and is a region where no data on out-of-hospital health care exists. This research assessed prehospital characteristics in the North East Department with the aim of providing baseline data to inform prehospital systems development.
In this observational study, data were collected from patients presenting at the Fort Liberté Hospital, the public regional referral health center in the North East Department. Data were accrued from April 2, 2012 through June 5, 2012. All patients accessing acute care at the hospital were eligible for enrollment. After obtaining consent, data on demographics, health needs, and prehospital information were gathered via a standardized questionnaire administered by hospital staff trained in study protocols.
Data were collected from 441 patient visits. The median age was 24 years, with 62% of the population being female. Medical complaints comprised 75% of visits, with fever and gastrointestinal complaints being the most common reasons for presentation. Traumatic injuries accounted for 25% of encounters, with an equal distribution of blunt and penetrating events. Extremity injuries were the most common traumatic subclassification. The majority of patients (67.2%) were transported by motorcycle taxi and paid transport fees. Trauma patients were more likely to be transported without charge (OR = 9.10; 95% CI, 2.19-37.76; P < .001). Medical patients were most commonly brought from home (78.5%) and trauma patients from a road/street setting (42.9%). Median time to presentation was 240 minutes (IQR = 120-500) and 65 minutes (IQR = 30-150) for medical and trauma complaints, respectively (P < .001). Eleven percent of patients reported receiving care prior to arrival. As compared with medical patients, trauma victims were less likely to have received prehospital care.
Assessing prehospital care in this low-income setting that lacks surveillance systems was feasible and required minimal resources. Motorcycle taxi drivers function as the primary emergency transport mechanism and may represent an access point for prehospital interventions in the North East Department of Haiti. Out-of-hospital care is nearly nonexistent in the region and its development has the potential to yield public health benefits.
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