SALISBURY — Town resident Louise Lindenmeyr, executive director and founder of a healthcare clinic in southeast Haiti, is at work in the country once again — this time, to help build a birthing center.
The birthing center, which is being built through a nonprofit organization called Hispañola Health Partners, or HHP, will be called Mezon Nesans Fanmi, and will be attached to the clinic.
The mission of HHP is to strengthen healthcare structures along the Haitian-Dominican border.
“We serve about 9,000 patients a year in an area of about 17,000,” Lindenmeyr said. “It’s a rural, very mountainous, inhospitable terrain. It’s in a rather forgotten area, in one of the very poorest sectors of the country.”
Lindenmeyr, 68, a mother of two and grandmother of two with one on the way, has just retired from a career as a family nurse practitioner in Amenia, NY.
Separately, she has been traveling to Haiti three or four times a year for 10 to 14 days at a time, to volunteer in the clinic. Additionally, she spent years volunteering internationally in clinics in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Southeast Asia and Africa.
The need for a birthing center pertains to the safety and health of both mother and baby, according to Lindenmeyr.
“Ninety percent of the women in our region give birth at home,” she said, adding Haiti has a very high maternal child mortality rate.
While in Haiti, Lindenmeyr works with both traditional birth attendants and professional midwives on her staff, and helps train them in safe birth practices.
Once the birthing center is built, “We can bring the women, with skilled birth attendants — and their family if they want to — to the birth center, where they can have a home-centered birth,” she said.
There’s a kitchen and garden where families can stay for a few days while the women are at the clinic.
The birthing center is expected to be completed in October. Plumbing and electricity are now being installed.
HHP, which is open 24-7, is owned and staffed by about a dozen Haitians and offers primary care services to a population consisting mainly of fishermen and subsistence farmers.
It serves 9,000 people annually, according to Lidenmeyr.
At the clinic, Lindenmyr has initiated lab services, and started a pharmacy, an emergency room and an observation room. She also started a female cancer screening treatment program in the area.
The clinic is not free to all.
“We have a philosophy that this is a community effort,” Lindenmeyr said. “It’s about 50 cents for a consultation.”
She added, however, that no one is turned down if they can’t afford to pay.
HHP pays about 60 percent of the clinic’s expenses.
Additionally, HHP pays the salaries of employees at the clinic, which comes to about $50,000 a year.
HHP is supported by private donors, grants from family and private foundations, and faith-based organizations in the region. The birthing center, which will cost $30,000, is also being paid for by grants from women's organizations and the healthcare clinic.
Salisbury resident Peter Halle, president and treasurer of HHP, said the birthing center is “a big deal” for the surrounding community.
“Mothers are the backbone of their families and the cornerstone of the community,” Halle said. “The birth center is a needed addition to our clinic and will help draw more patients from the surrounding commune.”
Lindenmeyr said she welcomes any opportunity to help those in need.
“I feel like I get back much so more than I give,” she said.
For more information on HHP, visit hispanolahealthpartners.org.