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Canadian Journal of Surgery





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The Canadian Forces’ (CF) deployable hospital, 1 Canadian Field Hospital, was deployed to Haiti after an earthquake that caused massive devastation. Two surgical teams performed 167 operations over a 39-day period starting 17 days after the index event. Most operations were unrelated to the earthquake. Replacing or supplementing the destroyed local surgical capacity for a brief period after a disaster can be a valuable contribution to relief efforts. For future humanitarian operations/disaster response missions, the CF will study the feasibility of accelerating the deployment of surgical capabilities.

On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake occurred in Haiti. The intensity of the earthquake and the frailty of the buildings in most of the country combined to cause extensive structural damage and casualties.1,2 An intense multinational relief effort followed.

The Canadian Forces (CF) contributed by sending a contingent of more than 2000 personnel.3 This included 1 Canadian Field Hospital (1 CFH), the CF deployable field hospital. While 1 CFH itself provided the core nucleus of staff for the hospital, 21 reserve and regular forces units across Canada also provided personnel. The full contingent of 117 CF members was first assembled in Petawawa, Ont., home of 1 CFH. Ninety-seven were medical or dental personnel, including medics; dental, laboratory, x-ray and operating room (OR) technicians; pharmacists; nurses; physicians; and surgeons. The remaining 20 were from various nonmedical trades, including signallers, truckers, mechanics, logisticians and others. From Petawawa, the unit moved by ground to Canadian Forces Base Trenton and then by air to Port-Au-Prince on the recently acquired CC-177 aircraft.

The first elements of 1 CFH arrived in theatre on January 21. It was decided to position 1 CFH in Léogane, a hard-hit town near the epicentre of the earthquake. Over the next few days, the hospital personnel arrived and contributed to establishing the hospital. Security was provided by 3 Battalion Royal 22e Régiment and naval personnel from the HMCS Athabaskan. Once it was fully operational, the hospital had a 100-bed ward, a 4-bed intensive care unit, radiology and dental suites, a primary care section, a laboratory and 2 ORs (Fig. 1). The first OR became functional on January 29. There were 2 surgical teams, each consisting of an anesthesiologist, general surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, OR technician and OR nurses. This paper discusses our surgical experience during this deployment.

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