Dr. Riitano and his team have been busy in our surgery center. Recently one door has been added and another door has been permanently shut to ensure a completely hygienic, non-toxic and sterile environment where the surgeons will prepare for surgery. The windows have been properly sealed, the air conditioner is in place and the structure that will house all the surgical instruments is nearing completion.
Currently Dr. Riitano and his team are still performing small surgeries during the week like cyst removals. Starting in May Dr. Riitano has plans for small teams of doctors and anesthesiologists to visit for two week periods. This will allow the surgery center to provide larger pediatric surgeries, hernia repairs, breast surgeries, orthopedic surgeries, and also to address gynecological needs. Because St. Damien is a pediatric hospital I asked Dr. Riitano where the referrals will come from for these surgeries and he told me that he sees a number of patients in our St. Luc Medical Clinic in Wharf Jeremy when he goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays who are in need of such surgeries.
I went along yesterday to see what a typical day is like for Dr. Riitano when he visits the clinic. It started with Dr. Rittano taking an extremely crowded ride in one of our St. Luc tap-tap vehicles with 20 sick children and their parents. Each morning at St. Damien Hospital we have parents with sick children lined up outside our gate. After the children are triaged some of them are seated to wait for their turn in line at our external clinic. We always have more children than we are able to see each day, so some of the overflow of patients is taken by Marise, a nurse for St. Luc, to our
St. Luc Medical Clinic in Wharf Jeremy.
On the way to the clinic we had to pull over to get air in the tires. While we waited for the tire to fill, with 20 sick children and their parents in the back of the tap-tap, the fumes from the generator were blowing all around us. The ride took about 25 minutes for us to arrive in Wharf Jeremy which is located on the waterfront. The patients in the clinic are also triaged and the children from the hospital are seen in one room by another doctor and Dr. Riitano sees his older patients in another room.
Joseph Ferdinand, Assistant Home Correspondent, served as the translator for Dr. Riitano because while Dr. Riitano speaks French, most of the impoverished people in Wharf Jeremy only know how to speak Creole. The first patient was someone who had a cyst removed two weeks ago in the surgery center in St. Damien Hospital. The room does not provide ample light so we needed to move this patient back into the hallway where Dr. Riitano could use the sunlight to see were he was cutting the stitches to remove them.
Each Tuesday and Thursday Dr. Riitano sees an average of 20 patients with a range of diagnosis from respiratory infections, tuberculosis and other liver problems, fractures, psychological issues, cysts and tumors. Some patients can be referred to other doctors in the area and some patients are given prescriptions and sent upstairs to pharmacy where Marise will give them the medicine and explain the proper way to take it. The patients will simple cysts removals can have appointments made to see Dr. Riitano and his team St. Damien for removal. There are many cases of hernias and breast issues. Dr. Riitano is keeping a book of names, diagnosis and phone numbers so that the first team of doctors and anesthesiologists and see the first 40 or so patients when they arrive in May.
After the patients have all been seen the truck is loaded back up with the supplies boxes and we return to St. Damien. The truck is not nearly as full on the return trip because the parents who were brought from the hospital have found their own way back home.
If you would like to see photos of a typical day of Dr. Riitano in the St. Luc Medical Clinic please click here.