Interview with Haitian Doctor on Strike

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I had the opportunity to sit down with a young Haitian resident physician yesterday. He is one of 450 Haitian resident physicians who have been on strike since March 18.  This physician strike has closed down Haiti’s three main public hospitals: General Hospital (University Hospital-HUEH) and Hopital Universitaire de la Paix (HUP) in Port-au-Prince, and Hopital Justinien in Cap Haitien. It is the longest physician strike in Haiti’s recent history.

I told him I would not name him and I would refer to him as RP (Resident Physician).

JC—Thank you for sitting down with me and answering questions about the resident strike in Haiti.

RP—You are welcome.

JC—Is there a resident physician union in Haiti? Like a factory worker’s union for example?

RP—No we don’t have a union but a committee has been set up composed of resident physicians from the three hospitals.

JC—Would you tell me exactly why you are on strike?

RP—Of course. We are striking for an increase in salary, health insurance, improved sanitation and structure within Haiti’s public hospitals, and increased security.

JC—Would you discuss the salary problem and explain where you are at in the negotiations with the Haitian government?

RP—I have children and have not received a paycheck since February of this year. My usual paycheck is $140 US per month before taxes are taken out. The resident physician salary has not changed in Haiti during the last 20 years even though the cost of living in Haiti has skyrocketed. As you know, 20 years ago one US dollar equaled one Haitian dollar. Now one US dollar equals 12 Haitian dollars. And I work an average of 110 hours per week.

We have asked the interim government to increase our salary to $500 US per month. Right now the government has doubled our salary if we come back to work, but that is not enough.

JC—Explain the health insurance that you are asking for.

RP—Resident physicians in Haiti have no health insurance. A young colleague of ours, a resident physician in Cap Haitien, recently died of an unknown illness…the physician didn’t have enough money to seek effective medical care.

JC—What are the sanitation and structural issues you mentioned?

RP—The public hospitals are very dirty for the patient and the staff. We frequently do not have electricity and the hospital generators are often broken. We perform surgery sometimes using hand-held flash lights. Anesthesia machines are broken and leaking.

The dorms for the resident physicians don’t have flushing toilets or they are clogged or there is no running water.  And the resident physicians who work in the TB Sanitarium in Port sleep in tents with rats scurrying around.

JC—And you mention security. Security for who?

RP—Security for us, the resident physicians. We are accosted now and then by angry family members with drawn guns demanding that we care for their family members. We frequently don’t have supplies to take care of their family members. We need Haitian Police in the hospitals to protect us.

JC—Has this strike created stress in your family?

RP—Yes, of course. I haven’t had a paycheck since February. My wife is selling second hand clothes. We are in financial trouble as we try to keep our kids in school.

JC—When your hospital was open, how much did an outpatient consult with a resident physician cost the patient off the street? For example how much would it cost to have your baby examined for fever?

RP—One dollar US. We were seeing approximately 1,000 out patients per day in the clinics at the hospital.

JC—Tell me about the obstetric care in your particular hospital when the hospital was open and you were not on strike.

RP—There were approximately 60 normal deliveries and 20 C-sections per week. A C-section cost the patient $100 dollars as opposed to approximately $1,500—$2,500 US in a private hospital in Port-au-Prince. Of course most people don’t have that type of money including the resident physicians.

Now the women have nowhere to deliver except MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and MSF can’t take more patients…they are full up all the time.

JC—So what you are telling me is that the woman and the baby can die due to a lack of appropriate obstetric care?

RP—Yes, they can die and I am sure they do die under these circumstances. Our government just doesn’t care.

JC—Do you as a physician have any trouble with the ethics of not taking care of people who you know are going to suffer morbidity and mortality because of the physician strike?

RP—Let me ask you, “Where are the ethics when people come to our hospital and we have nothing to offer them accept suboptimal or no care? Sometimes all we can do is refer them away for our public hospitals which are broken.  Where is the ethics there?”

JC—What about orthopedic problems? What does the person do who is hit by a car or who has a motorcycle accident and has a broken leg?

RP—MSF on Airport Road has a 150 bed trauma center which cares for open fractures (the bone is exposed). But MSF does not care for closed fractures (bone not exposed). MSF splints the patient with closed fractures and sends them out the door. Now MSF can’t send them to us because we are closed. So people with broken extremities that have not been set are healing improperly.

JC—This is really bad.

RP—Yes it is.

JC—What does the private physician community in Port-au-Prince say about this healthcare crisis?

RP—The private physicians don’t really want the strike to end because they use us now.

JC—What do you mean?

RP—They hire us (the striking resident physicians) to take call for them at night and pay us $10 US which is a lot more than we would make at one of our public hospitals. So the private attendings are happy for the strike because they get night coverage at a low price.

JC—I have heard that Interim President Privert is asking your attending teaching physicians to start working in the public hospitals in place of you to keep the hospitals going. What are your thoughts on this?

RP—Privert’s wife is a physician and she should know better. He is a business man and does not understand doctors. He calls us students but we are licensed physicians. The government needs to respect us as human beings.

If attending physicians started in the public hospitals today they would be accosted physically and their cars would have their windows smashed. It would not be a good idea for them to try. This puts us (resident physicians) in a bad position with our attending physicians who are our teachers. And if I decided to “break the strike”, I would be physically harmed too.

JC—What if Cuba or France opened their doors to all 450 striking residents and said come to Cuba or come to France and we will train you. What would happen?

RP—You would not see even one resident physician left in Haiti. In fact we are all going to sign a petition to attempt to leave this country.

JC—Do people in your church community agree with the fact that you and the other physicians are on strike?

RP—The majority of my own church members are not in agreement with me for striking. But they don’t understand the horrible conditions in which we work.

(At this point in the interview it was dark out in Port and RP got a message on his cell phone that the brother of the head of the orthopedic department at one of the public hospitals was just shot and killed after he made a Western Union wire transfer. He was shot three times just several blocks from where we were sitting for this interview. RP quietly told me, “I have to go.”)

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Rutshelle Guillaume

Biography of Rutshelle Guillaume …
Born in Port-au-Prince on July 28, a family of three children, Rutshelle GUILLAUME is the only daughter of her Father. At the age of five, she began to sing at the church of God of Boulard directed by Pastor Louis DESTINVAL. His passion for music takes him to 19 years, in the group “REL”, a musical formation composed for the most part of young musicians of the National School of … Arts (ENARTS). She was able to meet her husband, Walner O. Registre (Doc wor) band leader of the group Rèl, father of her beloved daughter (Ruth-Warly O. Registre). Rutshelle is one of the most listening and charming women’s voices on the air today. Her opus “KITE M KRIYE” is asked and asked again in the shows to which she is invited to produce. This song, according to her, comes out of the particular to reach the social. Rutshelle, Philosopher of formation, joined the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) of the State University of Haiti (U.E.H) in 2008. After completing her studies, she is currently completing her research in order to obtain her degree in philosophy. – Former Professor of Grammar and Philosophy at New Bird College. Rutshelle Guillaume currently works as: Protocol Officer attached to the Kiosk of the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad (MHAVE) at TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE International Airport. – During a training on vocal techniques organized by James Germain, Emmeline Michel and Stevenson Théodore at the Fokal in 2011, his performance on stage enabled him to surprise Yole DEROSE, in search of young female talents for his project “Haiti Heart of Women “. She chose to be part of her project. While awaiting the release of her album, she presents to the public the opportunity to discover it in her song titled “KITEM KRIYE” which is video-clip. In addition, Rutshelle had already participated on numerous projects with several artists and musical groups, such as: – Roosevelt SAILLANT, known as BIC Tizon dife: “Mesi ti cheri doudou” a song from his latest album entitled “Kreyòl sings Kreyòl Konpran” . Doc Filah: “Trèv pou amoni”, a song from his album “Akrilik sou twal rezon” – Eunide Edouarin dit (Eud) and Aristor Oberson says (Dad Crazy): “Fòk mwen fete”, a song of their album “Limyè wouj” – Jean Bernard Félicien dit (Hurricane) and Valkency Décembre dit (K-lib): “yon lide”, a song from their album “Knock Out” – Barikad crew , konplèks, bafon plafon “, songs from the album” RED “. To name but a few

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Neefah Song
Biography

Prior to launching her musical career, Neefah got her start by auditioning for the Brooklyn High School of the Arts; a specialized arts school where she majored in vocal music. In addition, she took Music Theory for she believes reading and writing music should be a very important factor in any musicians training.

Neefah excelled in the program and later attended the AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts where she graduated in 2006 with a degree in Musical Theater. She also graduated from the Barbizon School of Modeling the same year. Upon both graduations, Neefah began pursuing music full-time.

Stephanie “Neefah” Fontus was born on February 21st in Brooklyn, NY to a Haitian mother and a Haitian and Bahamian father. Her father, a professional bassist didn’t give her much support or encouragement when it came to music and her mother supported his decision because they didn’t want their daughter to make a career in music instead they encouraged her to complete her studies and have a normal and stable life and career. Neefah heeded her parents’ advice however it was in school where she actually found the drive and necessary encouragement that she needed and it came from her music teacher. Through her teaching and mentoring, Neefah finally felt secure enough to pursue her dream in entertainment.

Neefah went on to perform at some very prestigious events and places such as the United Nations, FAME on 42nd Street (Broadway Musical), VH1 Hop Hop Honors where she opened the show, she sang the national anthem at the Yankees’ stadium for the Mets twice to name a few.

With her career looking bright Neefah still felt the need to please her parents and obtain a degree in criminal justice but her heart still remains in music.

Neefah’s musical training and experience may be outside of the Haitian Music Industry’s (HMI) realm, she is no novice to the industry. Neefah’s collaborations include Dola Mizik, Clinton Benoit, Madman JP and Charlot Maitre on lead vocals.

Neefah’s new single entitled “Nobody but you” is officially released and Neefah is currently in the studio adding the finishing touches to her album slated for a Summer release.

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Written by Cheyna Pierre

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Yves Joseph

Yves Joseph

Background vocal

A Native of Petion-Ville, Yves Joseph, better known as Fanfan, is one of the original members of the band. Fanfan started with the band in 1968 playing the congas. In the 80’s, he moved to the front as an additional vocalist in support of Shoubou. The two have formed an impressive singing duo for the last 45 years. Fanfan is, undoubtedly, one of the most important and versatile members of Tabou Combo. Apart from being the band background vocalist, he’s also the band’s manager and main songwriter. Fanfan is a graduate (Cum Laude) from City College with a major in International Relations and a minor in Education. In the Summer of 2000, Fanfan became the first Haitian artist to land an endorsement deal with a major U.S. company when he signed with LATIN PERCUSSION (LP). Fanfan said his most positive experience with Tabou Combo was when the hit single NEW YORK CITY was released. ‘It is a good feeling to hear your songs everywhere you go in Europe, in jukeboxes, major radio stations, and Clubs,’ said Fanfan. ‘The attention you get, the pampering and the fame is unbelievable…’

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Yvon Andre

Yvon Andre

Percussions/Vocal

It was in 1968 when then fifteen year old percussionist Yvon Andre, known to all as Kapi, became a member of Tabou Combo. Back then the young musician had to sneak out of his family’s home in Petion-Ville to play with the band due to the fact that his parents were determined not to let their son become a musician. However, his love for music was too strong to be stopped. Kapi said he could have become anything, but he chose to be a musician because he loves music. It is that love that has motivated him to stay with Tabou Combo for so many years. Kapi is not just a mere percussionist; he’s also a pianist, vocalist, and songwriter. Kapi has penned many of Tabou’s hit songs. He has also written most of the band’s Spanish songs including FIESTA and PANAMA QUERIDA. The latter he co-wrote with Fanfan. Kapi said his most memorable moments as a member of Tabou was in 1998 when he traveled to the Ivory Coast to receive a lifetime achievement award on behalf of Tabou Combo, and again when RFO (French radio/television) honored Tabou Combo in Martinique; those, he said, were historical moments.

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Tabou Combo

BIOGRAPHY

“Rhythm is the essence of Tabou Combo,” says Tabou Combo’s co-founder and ex-drummer Herman Nau. The infectious rhythm of Haiti’s national dance music, Konpa (con-pah), has propelled the country’s preeminent dance band around the world. The 12 members of the band have covered many territories since leaving Haiti and relocating to New York City in 1971. By that time, Tabou had already established itself as Haiti’s number one group, and as the “Ambassadors of Konpa.” Tabou Combo now has worldwide fans and followers from London to Paris, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, South America, throughout the Caribbean and in North America.

It is easy to understand why Tabou Combo’s relentless and high-energy style of Compas dance beat knows no language barrier. Singing in English, Spanish, French or their native Creole, Tabou serves a hot mix of grooves and textures with roots from around the world. You will hear a strong dose of the Dominican Republic’s national dance music, meringue. In addition, there is Haiti’s dance-till-you-drop carnival music, rara, the hypnotic drums of Haitian voodoo rituals. Add to that quadrilles and contra-dances from Haiti’s French colonizers and funk from the American soul era to James Brown for good measure. The mixture of all these influences makes for a serious bass line that brings new meaning to the word bottom; layer upon layer of accents courtesy of drums, percussion and congas; the constant intertwining of two guitars with the feel of West African Soukous topped with bright piano riff and the brassy sound of a 3-man horn section.

Tabou Combo got started in 1968 in Petion-Ville, a town just outside Port-au-Prince, by Albert Chancy and Herman Nau and some friends, all in their teens. They began by naming themselves “Los Incognitos” because they were unknown at that time. They changed to Tabou Combo in 1969, in order to bear a name closer to the Haitian culture. That year, the band won first prize in a televised talent contest, gaining a national reputation in Haiti, and by 1970 it was one of the island’s leading bands. Then the Chancy’s parents stepped in, and Albert, the band’s guitarist, and original, leader was sent to college in Montreal and gave up music. The band dissolved and its members drifted to the United States. Early in 1971, however, an unexpected meeting led to a Tabou reunion with rhythm guitarist Jean-Claude Jean as the leader and the band has been together, with a few changes, ever since.

Employing the repetition and breaks of Afro-American gospel music, TABOU COMBO entices the listener to become listener and dancer. Almost four decades after TABOU COMBO’s establishment, the band has audiences dancing everywhere from concert halls to the streets and in nightclubs around the world. Says Fanfan, the band’s background vocalist and main songwriter, “We want people to dance and forget their sorrows.”

There is no doubt, the music is made for dancing, but Tabou also features lyrics that focus on social issues of the day. For example, the lyrics from the title cut of the group’s 1991 release ZAP ZAP deal with uplifting the image of Haitian people in the wake of bad press connected to the AIDS epidemic.

It was 1974 when the band captured Europe’s attention with its million-selling hit single NEW YORK CITY. Tabou steadily has been building its international followers ever since. The 1989 release, AUX ANTILLES (The Antilles), topped European and Caribbean charts for six consecutive weeks. AUX ANTILLES also won Best Album for Haitian Dance Music at the 1991 1st Annual Caribbean Music Awards at New York City’s famed Apollo Theater. Tabou’s release, KITEM FE ZAFEM (Let Me Do My Things), was voted among Beat Magazine’s Best of 1988. In 1989, KITEM FE ZAFEM, along with ZAP ZAP were used by the film director Jonathan Demme in his movie MYSTERY DATE. The song JUICY LUCY was chosen by French movie maker Maurice Pialat for his movie POLICE (1985). In 2002, world known guitarist Carlos Santana recorded the song MABOUYA (Foo Foo) on his album SHAMAN.

After traveling around the world with Tabou, Fanfan says he has found that people everywhere are all the same and they all love music. TABOU COMBO seduces the people with rhythm that does not let go. Konpa’s unrelenting dance beat is contagious and there are plenty of witnesses. Many of the thousands of TABOU COMBO fans around the world eagerly will testify… that is if they can stop dancing long enough to talk!

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Dat7

Biography

Based out of Hollywood, Florida, Dat7 is a Haitian band with a style deeply rooted in the finest tradition of Compas Direct with Zouk and R&B influences. Dat7 came into existence in late 2014 when former bandmates and longtime friends, Ricot Amazan (conga drums), and Eddy Viau (percussionist), join forces and created the band. They were later joined by Vladimir Alexis (drums), and Olivier Duret (vocalist), to complete the ensemble. Dat7 has created quite a stir since releasing their debut album VERDICT in October of 2015. Having been awarded the “Revelation de L’année 2015” award and the Haitian Academy Award in 2017, Dat7 continues to position itself as one of the most notable new bands, especially for their superb live performances.

Je-veux-M’envoler

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