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Boston Unions Partner with Haitian Ministry of Health on Medical Center, Training Program

In Haiti, unions have joined with doctors to build a new medical center while simultaneously training local workers. The National Teaching Hospital under construction in Mirebalais is a joint effort of the Haitian Ministry of Health and Partners In Health. The Boston-based global health organization is pro-union and its Director of Construction, Jim Ansara, used his connections to recruit Boston workers to migrate to Haiti and help build the new state-of-the-art medical center.

Union workers are also helping train Haitian workers in how to safely and effectively maintain the facility once construction is completed:

Construction began in July of 2010 with site contractors from the neighboring Dominican Republic. With unemployment over 80 percent in and around Mire­balais, the hospital project has served as the primary economic development engine in the region. Hundreds of hopeful workers lined up at the project gates when the structural, foundation, and block work began. So far, over 600 have found employment. “There is a very strong work ethic and a high level of consciousness about worker solidarity,” says Ansara, “but a limited exposure to high-level trade skills.”

Though the center was originally conceived of in 2009, the earthquake that devastated the region made the need for a more expansive medical center more pressing:

The earthquake changed everything,” says David Walton, the 35-year old director of the Mire­balais project. “The Ministry of Health said build it bigger and faster.” Walton has been working in Haiti with Partners In Health since 1999 when he was a first-year medical student. Now a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, he divides his time between Boston and Haiti.

Walton is largely responsible for the reconception of the 320-bed facility, with outpatient and inpatient care, an emergency ward, six operating rooms with modern sterilization procedures, an intensive care unit, a neo-natal intensive care unit, ante-natal and post-partum facilities, spacious wards, mental health services, dentistry, radiography, CT scans, electronic medical records, and all the other characteristics of a contemporary comprehensive care center. In addition, there are conference and seminar rooms with high-speed Internet and video-conferencing capabilities to provide medical and nursing education that can be linked to Harvard Medical School and other teaching institutions around the world.

The design of the medical center also includes clean energy technologies.

To read more about the Medical center and the role union members had in its construction, read the entire Commonwealth Magazine article HERE.


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