Obama promises more aid to Haiti despite high cost of helping

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President Obama met Haitian President René Préval at the White House on Wednesday with a promise of further American aid for the Caribbean nation. According to U.S.A.I.D., the United States to date has donated $712.7 million — far more than any other country — to Haiti in the wake of its Jan. 12 earthquake. Also on Wednesday, the USNS Comfort floating hospital left Hispaniola’s waters after almost seven weeks in the region. A total of 871 patients were treated and 843 surgical procedures were performed aboard.

The Comfort set sail for Haiti on Jan. 16 as an estimated 300,000 wounded Haitians despaired for lack of medical care.

With 1,000 patients beds and almost 560 medical personnel, the Navy reported in this video it was capable of treating more than 500 patients a day. The figure seemed realistic — civilian organizations can do as much. Last August, for example, the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Corps, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing health care in remote areas, set up a free clinic for the poor and uninsured in Inglewood, Calif. In a single week 1,500 people were treated for various ailments, including dental and vision care.

Air lifting all patients on and off the boat was certainly part of the bottleneck.

However, The Baltimore Sun reported:

“You can’t expect the Comfort to bring the entire country up to the standards of the U.S. health care system, but there has to be some bailout capacity,” Pollak said.

Military physicians say privately that the Haiti relief mission was complicated by the endless need for advanced care for patients whose conditions were unrelated to the Jan. 12 disaster.

In Haiti primarily to treat fractures and crush injuries from the earthquake, the crew was inundated with patients suffering from diseases, heart trouble, infections and other ailments that owed more to the country’s lack of development than to the earthquake.

The Navy was unable to provide a cost estimate for operating the Comfort, but fuel costs alone are staggering. The ship carries more than 1 million gallons of fuel and refueled at least once during its mission to Haiti. At minimum, the Navy spent 2 million gallons of fuel treating fewer than 1,000 people – if it’s using marine fuel which is roughly $4 a gallon, that’s $8 million in fuel. That’s roughly $9,184 per patient, just to keep fuel in the tanks.

Contact Aleksandra at: ak[at]dailycaller[dot]com.