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Haiti earthquake diary: Haitians chafe at foreign paternalism

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Norwegian Red Cross/Reuters

(Read caption) Dr Arthur Halvorsen (front c.), nurse Tove Gunleiksrud, and midwife Aline Gagnon (r) treat a newborn baby at the General Hospital grounds in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 20, 2010. The field hospital was set up on the grounds of the earthquake-hit General Hospital, and is jointly run by the Norwegian and Canadian Red Cross Societies.

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Monday, Jan. 25

The health situation has eased up a bit. Haitian and foreign doctors and nurses are ramping down the emergency operations at the General Hospital, which is actually the University Hospital as it’s the largest and only teaching hospital in the country.

It’s been transformed in the week since I was last there. It's now kind of a mini United Nations with all the foreign medical volunteers who traveled here on their own dime to help out.

The challenge is coordinating the effort, figuring out what treatment people need how best to follow up. With 90 percent of the government’s health infrastructure damaged, that’s no small feat.

Dr. Lassegue, the hospital's medical director, whom I spoke with the second night I was in the country, seems as calm as he did a week and a half ago, but this time he speaks a bit more forcefully about the need to rebuild all the surgical buildings – including the pediatric unit, the central lab and the nursing school, where more than 100 bodies are still buried. He knows the Haitian economy doesn’t have enough resources to even begin the process, but he wants to make sure that the Haitian government is included in the planning.

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