Canada sending military field hospital to Haiti
Published Thursday, January 21, 2010 9:13PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:46AM EDT
OTTAWA - Canada will deploy a military field hospital to Haiti with more than 100 staff, bolstering Canadian medical and relief efforts already at work in the earthquake-stricken country.
The decision was announced Thursday as the federal government was finalizing arrangements to bring up to 150 Haitian adoptees to Canada starting this weekend.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said 1 Field Hospital based in Petawawa, Ont., will depart in the coming days for Leogane, at the epicentre of the Jan. 12 quake.
The hospital's team of general doctors, surgeons, specialists and nurses will bring "much-needed health services, expertise and resources to augment the medical care that the Canadian Forces are already providing to the Haitian population," MacKay said Thursday.
Addressing the daily briefing on Canadian efforts in Haiti, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said federal officials have identified about 150 child-adoption cases that were underway before the magnitude-7.3 quake struck.
Ottawa is working with the provinces and the Haitian government to fast-track adoptions already in the system, and Kenney said the first adoptees could start arriving Saturday or Sunday.
Kenney said federal officials have spoken with most prospective parents and established that all the children they plan to adopt survived the quake, although some are "ill and have health concerns."
Kenney has directed his officials to issue temporary resident permits to allow qualified Haitian children to enter Canada as quickly as possible.
Regular processing is being waived and Ottawa will cover health costs until they can be moved to provincial programs. Many of the cases are in Quebec, home to most of Canada's 135,000 Haitians.
Most adoption cases are ready to go to the Haitian government for confirmation so that "we can bring these children to Canada expeditiously."
"We are preparing a list of children that we would like to take out of Haiti," he said.
"Provided that we get assurances from Haitian authorities that adoptions can go forward -- and I'm optimistic in that regard -- we hope that the first group of children can be brought to Canada as soon as this weekend. We are working through the logistics."
While the government says it will not loosen immigration restrictions to accommodate others escaping the chaos, Kenney noted it has issued 135 temporary-resident visas to Haitians evacuating with Canadian relatives.
By late afternoon, 14 Canadians had been confirmed dead in Haiti. Another 321 were missing.
More than 6,000 Canadians were on the island when the earthquake struck. The number located had risen Thursday to 1,867 from 1,727 the day before, while 20 flights had repatriated 1,765 evacuees.
Relief supplies continued to arrive by the planeload, and a roll on-roll off vessel was departing Halifax late Thursday loaded with military vehicles and equipment. The trip is expected to take about 10 days.
There are currently 950 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew on the ground or off the coast of Haiti. That figure is to more than double within two weeks.
A 16-member military medical team already in Jacmel, a hard-hit town about 40 kilometres south of the capital of Port-au-Prince, treated 98 patients on Wednesday.
Numerous hospitals in the Haitian capital and elsewhere have collapsed, and those that are open are full.
Up to 90 per cent of Leogane was destroyed in the initial quake, and more buildings fell when a magnitude-5.9 aftershock struck on Wednesday. About 200,000 Haitians live in the surrounding area.
MacKay said the military field hospital includes an operating room with two surgical teams, two resuscitation beds, two critical-care beds and 50 immediate- and minimum-care beds.
Powered by its own generators, it also has laboratory and diagnostic-imaging capabilities.
The federal government announced earlier this week it will provide up to $135 million in funds toward Haitian relief efforts, including about $1 million for an emergency field hospital staffed by 10 Canadian civilians and operated by the Norwegian and Canadian Red Cross.
"We're striving to do everything we can -- everything humanly possible -- to help the people of Haiti begin the long road to recovery from this devastating earthquake," MacKay said.
"Our thoughts, our prayers are with the people of Haiti. We're there to help with the recovery, the rebuilding of your precious country."