Dr. Benetty Augustin: Treating Epilepsy in Haiti

NPH Haiti St. Damien is one of the only hospitals where children can receive effective treatment for epilepsy in Haiti, and Dr. Benetty Augustin is dedicated to improving the knowledge of young doctors about the illness.
October 8, 2019 - Haiti

Dr. Benetty consulting an epileptic child

Since her childhood, Benetty Augustin has always been fascinated in caring for others. It began with people coming to her home to have wounds treated, but over time she began to develop a love for medicine. Over the course of one summer, she began babysitting for children in her neighborhood. Little did she know that this would trigger her unconditional affection for children and would inspire her to be a pediatrician.

Fast forward a few years, Benetty has travelled far and wide, studying day and night, to fulfil this lifelong objective. She is now known as Dr. Benetty Augustin, and every morning she goes to work at NPH Haiti St. Damien Pediatric Hospital with the Epilepsy Team, dedicated to saving lives and making a difference to her young epilepsy sufferers.

Career Journey of Dr. Benetty Augustin

- At the end of November 2009, after her hospital residency, Dr. Benetty Augustin gained the opportunity to work as a pediatrician in an outpatient clinic;

- From March 2010, after the earthquake, she became a fulltime employee St. Damien Hospital, a dream job that she had always cherished;

- From 2010 to 2011 her schedule was shared between emergencies and the critical room, while also collaborating with our Italian partners, with who she received training in electro-encephalography (EEG);

- From 2011 to 2014, she worked as a Clinical Instructor at Université Notre Dame d’Haïti ;

- From 2012 to 2014, she was in charge of the emergency department, and was then selected for further three months of training in EEG/Epilepsy in the United States;

- In October 2015, she is promoted Head of the Epilepsy Clinic and EEG;

- From 2017 to date, she has held the position Head of the External Clinic.

EEG and Epilepsy Team at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital

Dr. Benetty Augustin has evolved in the field of neurophysiology, which in turn helped her develop the Epilepsy Team at St. Damien Hospital which has been operational since October 2015, consisting of two nurses with intensive training on Epilepsy and Electroencephalogram. On average, there are 35 EEG cases per month with a cohort of about 500 children, 25 of which are seen every Thursday in the clinic. The team also have support from resident doctors, who rotate through the different units in the hospital as part of their training.

The patients derive from all different backgrounds in Haiti, but unfortunately the majority are poor who can’t afford the anticonvulsants (phenytoin, valproic acid, phenobarbital, keppra, etc ...) which are very expensive and not subsidized by the state.

Due to the lack of resources in pharmacies throughout Haiti, the medication is often out-of-stock, meaning children return in crisis situations.

Those who live the provinces sometimes miss appointments either due to economic constraints, since the Haitian currency continues to devalue against the US dollar, the increase of living costs or demonstrations and other political problems disrupting access across the country.

The cost of visits to other hospitals in Haiti as a day rate is anywhere between 5,000.00 to 6,000.00 Gourdes - approximately $53.00 to $64.00. The cost of living is increasing day by day and it is becoming more difficult for vulnerable people living below the poverty line to continue to purchase daily necessities and to attend the hospital.

Furthermore, visits to St. Damien can often be very pressurized, knowing that there are little or no specialists in this field throughout the country. In short, the support from NPH is often the only way children with epilepsy in Haiti are able to live with the condition.

Difficult cases are discussed when Dr. Anthony Alessi, an American neurologist, and his team, visit on medical mission. Although no funds have yet been allocated as of yet, St. Damien Collaborative program provides the unit with essential materials on a regular basis, such as paste, gel for electrodes, boxes of gloves, pad alcohol etc. Furthermore, the St. Damien and St. Luc teams receive continuous training, courtesy of the Global Health Exchange.

Current and future objectives of Dr. Benetty and the Epilepsy Team

Dr. Benetty is passionate about personal development. She has acquired a certain maturity which demands personal growth, both for herself, her team, and other doctors throughout Haiti.

In the coming years, she sees herself as a Pediatrician with expertise in neurophysiology in order to become an Epileptologist or Neurologist Epileptologist. This would enable her to develop a dynamic team and transform the service into an equipped neurology unit that can support children.

Furthermore, Dr. Benetty Augustin is eager to introduce a rotation system in other Haitian hospitals which have residence programs similar to NPH, which enables doctors to train in the epileptic clinic, to improve knowledge and awareness of epilepsy and feel more comfortable about treating epileptic patients.

The primary objective of the EEG unit is to improve the quality of life of its patients suffering from epilepsy, which has become a public health problem but which can be treated with adequate care. According to certain beliefs throughout Haiti, the illness is often perceived as a “supernatural” illness, making it difficult to follow-up cases. However, in most cases, people with epilepsy live normal lives.

And Dr. Benetty Augustin is dedicated to that cause.

Interested learning more about our programs at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital? Click here to visit our blog.

Damarie Egide Voight   
Communication Officer of Saint Damien Hospital




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