BY DAVID EINHORN, GUEST CORRESPONDENT
The celebration kicked off with the ninth annual soccer match between hospital staff and teachers from the local Catholic high school, Saint François Xavier. Hundreds attended the match, which ended in a 2-2 tie.
“Our relationship with the community is strong,” says the hospital’s Deputy Director General Dr. Miliane Clermont, “and our aim is to reinforce that partnership and all of its links.”
At a community meeting the following day, Dr. Clermont traced the hospital’s history, detailed its current achievements, and outlined plans for the future. At present the hospital is building a lab and a physical therapy facility, and plans to break ground on a new maternity ward soon. A question-and-answer session followed that touched on issues ranging from eligibility requirements for the hospital’s extensive scholarship program to efforts to hire more community residents to work at the hospital. The professional staff currently includes a number of medical professionals who were beneficiaries of St. Boniface scholarships and then returned to work at the hospital after their schooling.
“These meetings give the people who live here the chance to express themselves, and it enables the hospital to feel the community pulse and look at new ideas,” says lifelong Fond des Blancs resident Robert Gachelin.
In 2011, the hospital treated more than 30,000 patients and reached thousands more through an array of medical outreach efforts such as mobile health clinics and community development programs ranging from anti-parasite campaigns in schools to microcredit for farmers.
“To just do medical interventions without a social component ignores the many determinants of health, from the availability of food to how much money you have and your level of education,” Dr. Clermont says. “That’s why our sphere of actions looks at the community as a whole.”
At the meeting, the hospital invited and honored several of the project’s earliest and strongest supporters, including Jeanine Buissereth, who donated the land for the facility.
At a Mass on St. Boniface Day, celebrated in the town’s century-old cathedral, Father Pierre Evans urged the community and hospital staff to look to the spirit of service encapsulated by St. Boniface as a model moving forward.
“We have all come to thank God for the hospital He has given us here in Fond des Blancs,” Father Pierre said, “and to thank all of the people who came together to make this dream a reality.”