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Healthcare in Haiti: When Free Markets Collide

Healthcare in Haiti: When Free Markets CollideThe international community responded to January’s earthquake in Haiti with teams of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare experts. At first, the biggest problem to providing medical care to the hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors appeared to be a lack of electricity and inadequate sterilized space for surgery. As immediate infrastructure was addressed, many Haitians were able to enjoy healthcare for the first time. Now an altogether different problem besets healthcare in Haiti: the deluge of free care from donor countries and aid agencies is threatening Haiti’s own healthcare system.

When CDTI opened in 2007 it was reputed to be Haiti’s most sophisticated hospital, providing technologically advanced care to Haitians who could afford the $25 consultation fee. After the quake, CDTI provided free care, operating well beyond its capacity. But now the hospital is empty.

After the emergency phase of the earthquake ended, Haitians continued to receive free care from outfits such as Doctors Without Borders. Why pay to go to CDTI? No one did, and after two months of paying salaries, buying pharmaceuticals, and keeping the hospital running with no money coming in, the hospital’s director went broke.

Hopital Canape Vert is witnessing the same problem. Michael Theard, a cardiologist there, told Public Radio International:

We have an average of 8 to 10 patients a day, which is not enough to maintain the hospital open. And the problem is that the NGOs are working giving the free care, so when they will leave, you will find nothing. The medical condition of Haiti will be worse than before.

Free markets in Haiti’s healthcare system are colliding. The first operated on a for-profit basis, like CDTI. The second is a market of free healthcare provided by aid agencies, but this is temporary. And the success of the latter now is ruining the former. If this goes unaddressed by major donors Haiti could be left altogether worse off in a few months time.



Sean Goforth

Sean H. Goforth is a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. His research focuses on Latin American political economy and international trade. Sean is the author of Axis of Unity: Venezuela, Iran & the Threat to America.