Saturday, March 7, 2009

Looking Back...Haitian Hearts Expands to National Program

Peoria Journal Star
September 21, 2003


Haitian Hearts expands to national program -- Group continuing mission as independent foundation

PEORIA - Cut off from OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, where it operated for years, Haitian Hearts is expanding into a national organization.

It now has 16 patients who have undergone heart surgery this year or who have been accepted for surgery at hospitals in New York, Virginia, Florida, Ohio and elsewhere in Illinois, founder Dr. John Carroll said.

"We're really happy," he said.

The group has become an independent foundation and can accept tax-deductible gifts. It will continue to raise money and bring Haitians to the United States for treatment, Carroll said.

Several of the surgical procedures this year are being funded by the Rotary Club's Gift of Life program, through contacts he made in New York, Carroll said. This program pays hospitals $5,000 per case.

Haitian Hearts arranges for the surgery, negotiates discounts with hospitals when payment is necessary, Carroll said, and pays for travel, visa and other expenses.
Physicians donate their services, and hospital social workers find temporary placements for the patients, mostly children, as they recover, he said.

The downside, he said, is that the patients no longer will be staying with families in the Peoria area. Many people have benefited from the experience of hosting these children and developing contacts with their families in Haiti, he said.
Carroll said the Haitian Hearts program arranged for 17 patients to have surgery last year, with 15 of those at St. Francis.

Since the program began, it has brought almost 100 Haitians to the United States for life-saving treatment. Most are children and most had heart surgery unavailable in Haiti.

"We gave Children's Hospital (at St. Francis) $1.1 million over six years. In cash," Carroll said.

But in July, OSF Healthcare System and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria announced they would no longer participate in the program after financial negotiations failed.

Carroll said St. Francis then was offered $25,000 cash to perform a surgical procedure, but the hospital refused to accept the patient, who was successfully treated elsewhere for $5,400.

St. Francis spokesman Chris Lofgren said the hospital would not comment.
Last December, St. Francis refused to approve any more visas for medical care for the Haitian patients.

St. Francis fired Carroll in December 2001 from his job of 21 years as an emergency room physician after a dispute with hospital managers.

1. As the article mentioned, we were very happy to have patients operated on elsewhere. These kids stood no chance in Haiti without surgery.

2. Late in 2003, Haitian Hearts noticed that we had received no funds from OSF. Generous people in the community were still donating to Haitian Hearts but their donations were going to Children's Hospital of Illinois. And we became a 501 C 3 not for profit in 2002. We questioned OSF Foundation repeatedly and they said they would provide us with a donor list, but they never did. If we didn't get the funds we at least wanted to know who to thank. Finally, late in 2003, OSF turned over a check to Haitian Hearts signed by Keith Steffen and Sister Canisia for money that was donated to Haitian Hearts, not Children's Hosptial of Illinois. (I am quite sure that Sister Canisia had no idea that she was giving us our own money back.) Children's had taken the money, was going to keep it, except we kept after them for it, so they finally gave it up. And they never told us who donated the funds, so we had no one to thank as 2003 ended.

OSF was blocking the door to Haitian kids every way they could manage.

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