One Door Closed is Another Hospital Opened

After a storm hit Norwood Hospital in June 2020, the building was deemed a total loss. But materials that once made up Norwood will soon find a new home in Haiti.

BHI staff collect doors from the Norwood Hospital in December 2021. These doors will soon be used as part of a new diagnostics center at Haiti’s Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais.

On June 28, 2020 the Norwood Hospital experienced significant damage after downpours caused the building to flood within minutes. The destruction was significant, as the rain broke down doors and windows, completely filling the basement with water and destroying medical equipment in its tracks. Luckily, despite the damage, the 250 bed hospital was able to evacuate all of its patients safely. Following the event, Norwood Hospital was deemed a total loss. Now, as Norwood looks to rebuild and start over, they are preparing to demolish the old hospital to make space for a new facility.

While, as a whole, the damage to Norwood Hospital is irreparable, some of the construction materials within the hospital were salvageable. Looking to make the best of an unfortunate situation, Norwood partnered with Build Health International to donate essential building materials and equipment that can be leveraged for future healthcare infrastructure projects in low-resource settings.

Recognizing that the clearing of the Norwood Hospital presented a unique and urgent opportunity, the BHI team was all hands on deck to uninstall and collect supplies prior to demolition. In mid-December, 6 BHI team members made multiple trips to Norwood, strategically locating and evacuating a list of predetermined materials.

The exercise of physically uninstalling these items served as a unique opportunity for BHI project managers, allowing them to visualize the exact materials needed for upcoming healthcare projects. Knowing the specific dimensions and quality of materials available, the managers were able to plan and adjust to optimize for future projects.

BHI Project Architect and Site Supervisor, Thomas Darr, detaches a door at the Norwood Hospital.

Among the materials collected, some of the most meaningful were 175 metal, wood and lead-lined doors. Lead-lined doors have an immediate project need, and with extended lead times and high procurement costs, they are a high-value item for BHI. While doors might seem commonplace and easily accessible within the United States, they are an expensive and necessary part of building a hospital. Historically, every wooden door that would need to be purchased by BHI costs between $200-$400 per door, and lead-lined doors could be upwards of $3,500 apiece. BHI aims to complete each construction project in the most cost-effective way possible, without sacrificing quality. Therefore by acquiring US standard hospital doors from Norwood free of cost, the BHI team could reallocate budget to purchasing other critical line items, like biomedical equipment.

In addition to the doors, other essential materials collected, including scrub sinks, stainless corner guards, and grab bars will present huge cost savings for future projects and NGO global health partners.

Among the items collected from Norwood Hospital were doors, sinks, and grab bars.

The doors that BHI collected from Norwood will eventually find a home at the new Diagnostic Center at the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, and across BHI’s pipeline of projects. The HUM Diagnostics Center will be an expansion to Haiti’s premiere research and teaching hospital, which BHI originally built following the 2010 earthquake and has been supporting over the past decade. The Diagnostics Center will increase the hospital’s capacity to conduct imaging like X-Rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Because of the nature of these procedures, the Diagnostic Center will need to be equipped with lead lined doors to ensure that the radiology is safely contained. The new Diagnostic Center will require 37 doors. These doors, and their accompanying hinges and locksets would cost almost $23,000 to purchase in total. Thanks to Norwood, they will be free of cost.

Pictured above it the future site of the HUM Diagnostics Center. BHI began construction on the new center in late March 2022.

The coordination of the effort at Norwood was largely led by BHI’s Director of Partnerships Zac Chase. Zac reflects, “The unique opportunity of working with the Steward team at Norwood Hospital and their incredible generosity allowed BHI to access and target materials needed for current and future projects. Gift-in-kind donations have a tremendous impact on our work and procurement costs, and come from various channels and partners. Collaboration is key for Build Health International, and we welcome any opportunities to utilize items like these in our global projects serving some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.”

Materials for the HUM Diagnostics Center were recently shipped to Haiti, and ground was broken on the new Norwood Hospital in December of 2021. The Diagnostics Center is set to open at the end of 2022 and the new Norwood Hospital plans to re-open its doors in 2024. As The Norwood Hospital looks towards a new beginning, the legacy of the old facility lives on, helping expand access to high quality healthcare in Haiti.

Olivia Duggan is Build Health International’s Manager, External Projects and Initiatives. She writes about the intersections of health and infrastructure, with a focus on the impact of BHI’s work on health systems in resource-poor settings.

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