Cayman’s top doc goes to Haiti

Rotary paves the way

Cayman
Islands Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Hoeksema has travelled to Haiti to help
provide medical supplies and care to those injured in the devastating 7.0-magnitude
earthquake that struck 12 January.

“It
was organised through Rotary,” said Dr. Hoeksema, who is a member of the Rotary
Club of Grand Cayman. “With my [US] Navy roots, after it happened I was thinking,
‘Gee, how can I get a team over to Haiti to help out?’”

A
first step was making sure it was not only safe to travel to Haiti, but that
his being there wouldn’t put a further burden on the already strained infrastructure.

Dr. Hoeksema
left Cayman Sunday afternoon and stopped in the Bahamas to help out with a telethon
raising funds for the Haiti relief effort. 

Although
he travelled to Haiti
on Tuesday, two weeks after the earthquake, help is still very much needed, he
said.

“The
sexy time to go was right afterwards. There’s much less glamour in going now,
but the need is still phenomenal.”

The
plan is for Dr. Hoeksema to be stationed at a hospital outside of Port-au-Prince.  Because of the level of destruction in Haiti’s
capital city, all of the patients were being evacuated to hospitals in other
places.

Dr. Hoeksema
said Haitian Rotarian Dr. Claude Surena was handling the logistics of his
deployment through Rotary Past District Governor Richard McCombe in the Bahamas. Dr.
Surena has been in the news because he housed some 100 patients at his own home
after the earthquake.

“My
intent is to be there 14 days max at the hospital,” Dr. Hoeksema said, adding
that Cayman’s assistance might not stop there. “I’ll figure out the needs and report
back.  It might be that we send a couple
of surgical nurses over.”

In
addition to assistance from the Rotary Club, which among other things paid for
Dr. Hoeksema’s travel, he said his trip had been supported by Cayman’s Health
Services Authority and Ministry of Health, which also donated some medical
supplies for the relief effort.

Rotary connection

Since
Haiti, like the Cayman Islands, is part of Rotary Club International District
7020, the local Rotary clubs were able to use a network of contacts to
determine the needs in Haiti after the disaster.

Haiti has some 350 Rotarians and 17 Rotary
clubs, five of which were in the area of the worst destruction from the earthquake. 

At
the local level, Dr. Hoeksema credited one particular Rotarian for making his
trip possible.

“Joey
Hew really grabbed the bull by the horns and made it happen,” he said.

Also
a member of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, Mr. Hew is the country disaster
chairman for the Cayman Islands.

Mr.
Hew said a main reason the district Rotary clubs were so well organised to address
the disaster in Haiti was an
effort that began after Hurricane Ivan hit Grand Cayman
in September 2004.

He
said Ray Whittaker, then president of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, moved to
create a district disaster committee and fund.

“He
pushed for a disaster committee in each country and for satellite phones for
each club,” he said. “That’s how, within 72 hours of the earthquake, we were
able to be in touch with all the Rotarians on the ground in Haiti and determine
their needs.”

Through
the combined efforts of Rotarians, significant amounts of supplies and
equipment, including an MRI machine, have already been sent to Haiti, Mr. Hew
said.

Mr.
Whittaker, who acts as Rotary District 7020 disaster relief director, said he’d
been advocating disaster plans to Rotary for several years now.

“I’ve
drafted disaster plan for clubs, countries and districts,” he said, noting he
gave them the basics and then encouraged them to customise it for their own
purposes.

“I’ve
been trying to preach disaster plans first to Rotarians and their families, so
that if there was a disaster, they’d be more able to help their club and
country. I tried to build it from the ground up.”

With
regard to the satellite telephones, Mr. Whittaker said he’s encouraged everyone
to keep them charged up and tested the whole year round.

“Complacency
sets in as soon as hurricane season ends, but you never know when something
might happen.”

LOCALdrSTORY

Dr. Hoeksema
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