While Haiti may seem a world away from Middle Tennessee, a Bellevue-based non-profit is working diligently to bring medical care to the people there. Approximately two and a half hours west of Port-Au-Prince in the town of Petite Rivière de Nippes, the Visitation Hospital Foundation (VHF), is building medical facilities in this underserved rural community. Bellevue resident and VHF Founder and Executive Director Theresa Patterson was moved to start helping those in Haiti after hearing a speaker at her church in the late 1970s share about the need there. Her first trip to Haiti in 1978 sparked her passion to continue working to help people there, eventually leading her to start VHF in 1999. After a fundraising campaign in 2003, construction was finally able to begin in 2007 and VHF opened its clinic doors the following year.
“Haiti remains the poorest country in the Latin America and the Caribbean region and among the poorest country in the world,” says Patterson. “The poverty rate in Haiti is 56 percent of the population living on less than $1 a day. Haiti is also among the countries with the greatest inequality in the region. This is largely due to two-thirds of the poor living in rural areas and the adverse conditions for agricultural production, creating a welfare gap between urban and rural areas.”
Patterson along with VHF Board President Fran Rajotte and their team and board have worked to build an outpatient clinic to bring aid to this previously underserved area. “[We] offer a wide spectrum of medical and dental services, midwifery, emergency medicine, diagnostics, community health workers, mobile clinics, and pharmacy services. For just $2.25 per patient visit, patients receive a diagnosis, blood work, treatment and medications,” says Rajotte, who began working with the organization in 2002.
“When you witness firsthand walking among the people of Haiti and seeing the needs of the people there, there is no turning back,” says Rajotte. “I really believe that what we do in this community has given several generations of people the chance at a better quality of life.”
Their all-Haitian staff of over 30 people has treated well over 300,000 patient cases. “The most common diseases or maladies seen at Visitation Clinic on a daily basis are anemia, urinary infections, gastrointestinal diseases, hypertension, influenza, malaria and parasites,” says Patterson. Additionally, chronic diseases and skin diseases are common issues, as well as stomach sickness due to the lack of potable water and unsanitary food preparation. This led them to make a water filtration system one of their first big contributions, which has helped the community immensely.
The organization plans to begin building an ambulatory surgery center in late 2024 with the initial plan to focus on general surgery, urology, and ophthalmology, as well as performing C-sections, cataract surgery, and some orthopedics. VHF is currently raising funds for medical equipment, instrumentation, staffing, furnishings, and medical supplies.
Additional information, including a donation portal, is available at VisitationHospital.org.