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SANJAY GUPTA MD

Devastation in Haiti: Is the Aid Getting to the People on the Ground?; Concerns of Second Wave of Death Due to Disease in Haiti; What Senator Scott Brown Could Mean for Your Health Care

Aired January 23, 2010 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: We're actually going to be here and we're going to sit-in for now, because Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as we know, is in Haiti right now. We're having a few technical issues with Sanjay. But we are just going to get things start off, try to give him up and going, and then we'll check in with Sanjay.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And we'll bring him in live as soon as we get his audio problems worked out.

But, you know, this hour or half hour, we're going to be digging down to where the aid is. Who's donating? How much is there? Where is it going? Is it actually getting to the people on the ground? Sanjay has been tracking that down.

HOLMES: And also, you know, you get that first wave. You get that initial disaster and you have that death. But then you have a concern about a second wave of death that could come from disease. He's going to be looking into that, as well.

NGUYEN: And also, on the political front. What the new GOP senator from Massachusetts could mean for your health care.

You're watching SANJAY GUPTA, M.D.

(MUSIC)

NGUYEN: All right. So, we want to start with the latest in Haiti on the ground. Search and rescue efforts are officially being called off by the Haitian government. But the U.N. says it has rescued 132 people from the quake. And the first official death toll so far, you're getting that number in today, as well, and it's more than 111,000 people that have died. And get this -- a staggering 609,000 people are currently homeless in Haiti.

HOLMES: We'll have more on how that could impact help. That's coming up later in the show. Again, you are watching DR. SANJAY GUPTA, M.D., his show right here.

But he -- there in Haiti, having a few problems with his signal. We're going to get him up live as soon as we can.

Also this morning, a new hospital opening up in the city there in Port-au-Prince. You might remember a lot of these images here. These were reported to us from our Elizabeth Cohen. This from a makeshift clinic at the U.N. compound in Port-au-Prince.

Now, the doctors from the University of Miami, they were able to move now to this spot. This is a field hospital dubbed the "University of Miami, Haiti Campus Hospital" -- the largest field hospital in the country so far with 250 beds.

NGUYEN: Just think -- just think about that for a second. The largest one in the country and it's got 250 beds. That's it.

HOLMES: Two hundred fifty beds.

NGUYEN: All right. So, they are two of the most renowned surgeons on the ground in Haiti and they're twins. Two men providing desperately need aid to friends, neighbors, and fellow Haitians.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was the end of the world.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: He thought it was the end of the world.

(voice-over): They're Haitian surgeons. Jerry and Marlon Bitar. Yes, they're twins. And in this community, they're also heroes. When the earthquake hit, they stayed open for business.

(on camera): These are two of the most renowned general surgeons in Port-au-Prince. And trying to do everything they can obviously for patients. But the problem is, what happens, even if they provide the best health care they can with the resources they have, there is no plan after that.

The international community says, look, we're providing a lot of aid to Haiti. We're providing a lot of money. We're providing a lot of resources. What do you say to that?

JERRY AND MARLON BITAR, HAITIAN SURGEONS: We don't feel it. Today, it's six days after -- six or seven days, one week. Honestly, I don't say they don't send (INAUDIBLE). But I personally don't see it.

GUPTA (voice-over): But today, they have far more pressing matters than worrying about when international aid will come. Hardly any food, minimal water, and not enough pain medication. Patients are literally screaming for help.

(on camera): The sound that you hear over here are sounds that you never want to hear again. You have children screaming, knowing that they're going to have so much pain as they try and dress these wounds and how much they can do for them. There's not much in the way of pain medications to give to them. And all of the patients waiting, knowing they're next, knowing that they're going to endure that same sort of pain. It's totally impossible to watch.

Oh, wow. It's, obviously, a young boy who -- with significant injuries. You can see his legs. He's got -- this is a severe scar and -- this has a lot of crush injury here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

GUPTA: This leg you've decided to save, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, save that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this, we can't save it.

GUPTA: So, what do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of patients waiting here. They finish operating. But I cannot go to the street because I don't have a home. And I think to help , you know, I ask everybody to help to think about how to put -- how to think about the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't live without a house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're on the street, and people -- we give health care, they cannot go on the street. It's impossible.

GUPTA: And even near the end of the day, this is basically what continues to happen. Trucks are coming in with patient after patient after patient. This hospital is already full to capacity with these two doctors. They're going to continue to take care as many as they can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Just a really remarkable story there. Talking to those doctors, doing all that they absolutely can. Sanjay stopped back to see them since that shooting -- shooting that video right there. And they were still in need of medicine.

HOLMES: Yes. A lot of people are. That's essentially the case there for everybody on the ground. So Sanjay went in search of medicine, went in search of supply and aid, and he found it.

Dr. Gupta is going to show you where there are stacks of it. That's straight ahead here on SANJAY GUPTA, M.D.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Welcome back, everybody. You are watching SANJAY GUPTA, M.D.

And the good doctor himself is there. I think we have those technical problems worked out.

Can you hear us, Sanjay?

GUPTA: I got you, Betty.

NGUYEN: All right.

GUPTA: Sorry about the technical problems. You know, that happens from time to time, certainly here in Haiti.

It's quite loud behind me, as well, I don't know if you can hear that. But there's a revival rally going on. It's called the day of repentance. So many of the churches came down on the earthquake. That's -- a religious sermon is actually being conducted in this plaza behind. It's actually a good sign in my ways to see that plaza in this way.

Over the past week, as you know, we've been hearing about aid and hearing aid specifically here in town but stuck at the airport. We kept hearing from so many people, doctors, patients alike, there was this real sense of frustration really.

So, we decided to try to figure out what was going on. We went to the airport ourselves to find out where all of that aid is and what's taking so long.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: It's like everywhere we go, just walking to the airports even, outside the airports, people are saying we need supplies. How do we get them? We know they're in there, how do we get them out here? People just keep asking me that same question over and over again.

(INAUDIBLE)

GUPTA: All right. So now, we're going to go into the airport here. And see if the next step of this works or not.

Just take a look out here at all of the people that are waiting. And I can tell you that a lot of these people are waiting because they're simply hoping that some of the supplies make it outside of the airport and to them.

OK. We're now in the airport. It took about five minutes to get in here. We're in the airport.

To give you an idea -- I mean, obviously, the airport itself is still very, very desolate inside. But we're going to get to the airstrip, that's where we're hearing so many of the supplies are.

As you can hear me or not, but when we talk about all of these supplies sitting here, just take a look. I mean, boxes and boxes of supplies, all kinds of different formula in there, antibiotics, pain medications, all sorts of things.

I just want to get some antibiotics.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: I'm going to walk you over there. (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA: So, we check in there first?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Yes. That's what we will do, walk around the other end. GUPTA: They seem like they want to help. We're going in to see if we can get some antibiotics at least to try and take care of these kids. And we'll find out.

There is a lot of supplies here, though. We're able to basically walk into a couple of these tents, tell people what we needed and get lots of supplies here. Lots of antibiotics, lots of pain medications -- all sorts of things, try to treat some of the injuries we've seen. These are medications that people haven't had them until now. It took about 15 minutes, we've got a bunch of them and we're going to try to distribute these to the hospitals.

Basically just went into the airport and just tried to take as many of the things we thought you guys would need based on what the twins were telling us. So, some of this probably broad spectrum antibiotics, lots of different pain medications. All that screaming this morning...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GUPTA: ... hopefully you can...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take care of that.

GUPTA: Hope we can help. All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: You're welcome.

So, we came here today, we were able to pick up some of those supplies ourselves. I just asked them and they gave them to us.

COL. BEN MCMULLEN, U.S. AIR FORCE: Right.

GUPTA: I'm going to take them to that hospital and give it to them because kids, adults need this stuff today. Does that surprise you what I described to you?

MCMULLEN: There is stuff here waiting to be taken out. That's a true statement. Is it a lot? I can't speak to it.

I will tell you the reason you probably got it is because everybody on this field, specifically U.S. government side, is dedicated to getting as much stuff outside as it can. Does it totally surprise me that some are doing without? No, it doesn't, not totally.

Do I hope it gets better? Without a doubt. We're doing our part to get things out there and certainly get things into the airport. And it -- and it is -- it's a shame. Because you would hope that everything could get out there within seconds. But that kind of infrastructure just isn't in place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: The way -- the way that it's working, obviously, a lot of these supplies are getting to the airstrip. That's supposed to be coordinated pretty well. What's supposed to happen after that, people are supposed to come in with their identification, know the lot number of the supplies and go pick them up, take them to their first aid clinics, the hospital.

That's where it seems to break down. There's not a central distribution point. There's obviously a lot of these supplies at the airport, but hardly, anything else outside the airport in terms of distribution. And I know a lot of people are trying to work on fixing that.

You should also know the worst case scenario, as well. Antibiotics and pain killers simply left in the heat, lose a lot of their potency or their efficacy. They don't really go bad, necessarily.

Blood, however, left out in the heat without being refrigerated, that will go bad in about a day.

Now, it's been about a week and a half since the earthquake struck Haiti and many powerful aftershocks have followed. Our CNN correspondents have been all over the place as you know, seeing firsthand how lack of transportation, infrastructure, leadership are preventing important aid from reaching Haitians.

And joining me now is my colleague Ivan Watson.

You've been doing amazing reporting, first of all. And I know a lot of people back home have been following you closely. You know what we've been talking about with regard to aid -- a lot of the aid being at the airport, not getting here to Port-au-Prince. That seems to be how people are measuring success. But you've been traveling outside Port-au-Prince, as well.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we traveled about an hour and a half west of Port-au-Prince. And there, reached some towns and villages that say they haven't gotten anything basically since the earthquake.

And we spoke with one American missionary there from missionary of hope -- Mission of Hope. It's based in Merrimack, Massachusetts. And she complained that there'd been no help with pulling bodies out. Just some U.S. Marines had just arrived the previous day. And they hadn't begun distribution yet.

The other complaint she had was that her mission had helped bring in about four doctors who had given up their practice work and paid their own way down and they had been stranded in Jacmel, that's a port on the south of Haiti for two or three days waiting for transport in, you know -- you know how important it is to have doctors. And she complained that there just doesn't seem to be any leadership or organization for people to be sitting still like that unable to help anyone.

GUPTA: When you drive to places like this, can you just describe for people what it's like, what you're seeing outside. Just -- is this countryside, or what does this look like?

WATSON: Yes. I mean, it's lovely. You got coastline here, mountains up in the hills, banana groves, villages, really, and then just mile after mile after mile of destruction. And as you get out of the city, these are one-story concrete houses made out of cinder blocks and they're all crunched. They're collapsed on the ground. And people are camping out there, too.

The population concentration is less dense, but the people are incredibly poor out there. And now, they've really been pushed to the brink.

GUPTA: They say even before the earthquake, only about 50 percent of the country had access to clean water. That's obviously gotten worse since this.

But if people don't even have the basic supplies in these areas now for a week and a half -- I mean, you can't -- you can't survive without water for, you know, more than, I don't know, a week or so. I mean, are people dying just for lack of water, food -- things like that?

WATSON: As it was explained to me by a nun yesterday, these people were living below the poverty line already. They were desperately, desperately poor. And now, they had -- whatever little things they had, they have nothing.

Now, I have to suspect that out in the country side, maybe there are some more coping methods, as in people can fish in the sea and there is some agriculture going on there. And maybe that will help them a bit in a way that you don't have those resources for the urban dwellers after this disaster.

GUPTA: All right. Ivan, amazing work. You know, we'll be here all week, as well. So, hopefully, we get a chance to chat like this again.

We want to give you some news back home as well. There's a scramble going on, as you know, to figure out the future of health care reform. Dead or alive -- we're going to be checking in after the break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: Welcome back to the program. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

You know, we've been covering health care reform, as well, since the president's inauguration a year ago. It seemed on the verge of passing, and this week, a stunning blow, as I'm sure you know, Republican Scott Brown elected in Massachusetts. What does this mean for the proposed health care bill?

Our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar has what's next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, that come from behind victory that put Republican Scott Brown into the Senate seat that was held by Teddy Kennedy in Massachusetts for decades, it has just thrown Democrats into utter turmoil when it comes to what they're going to do about health care reform.

Because of that election, Senate Democrats no longer have that 60-vote filibuster-proof majority that they've been relying on to move health care reform through the Senate. And because of that, it seems the ball is very much in the court of the House of Representatives.

We've been paying a lot of attention to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been talking about is the way forward. She closed the door on the on the idea of the House just passing the Senate bill outright and putting it on President Obama's desk. That seemed like the easiest route to go.

But some of the other ideas, one being, taking the Senate bill, changing it a bit, and using a procedural tactic that would allow the Senate to just rely on a simple majority of 51 instead of 60 votes to pass it. The issue with this for Democrats is, it would be a huge political risk. You would have Republicans saying that they're doing something under the radar and it's not on the up and up.

And so, it seems like, lastly, their option would be to take some of the items of health care reform that do have some broad support, try to get some Republicans on board, pare down their efforts and try to move that. Maybe they can salvage some items like telling insurance companies they can't deny coverage on the basis of pre- existing conditions, or telling insurance companies they can't cap benefits for Americans, either over the course of a year, or over the course of a lifetime.

Maybe there would be something in there that could encourage people to get insurance, but not outright demand that they do it. And because of that, there would also have to be some assistance in the form of subsidies to help low-income and middle-class Americans get health insurance.

All of these details unclear at this point as Republicans really lick their chops over this newfound influence they have on health care reform, Sanjay.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Brianna, obviously, so many details still to work out. It's going to be fascinating to see how this turns out. Brianna, thank you so much.

We are -- we are going to continue to drill down on what health care reform could mean to you and tune in for that, obviously, in the coming weeks of the show. We're dedicated to this particular issue.

Also dedicated to continue what's happening here in Haiti. Behind me, a revival ceremony of sorts. Obviously, a good sight in many ways. A very difficult sight we've been seeing for weeks now. One of the signature injuries of this particular earthquake is probably going to be something known as crush injuries. What are they exactly, what happens with them, and how do doctors treat them? We'll have that after the break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: Pictures like that one are really what keep so many people going around here. The last rescue we're aware of, 22-year-old man, rescued yesterday after being buried for 10 days. He was pulled from the rubble by an Israeli team who says he is at stable condition at their field hospital. They had some access to water. But still, remarkable, extraordinary rescues.

Those rescues are just the beginning. I have to tell you, the medical care, the sort of care people get after that, very important. And crush injuries, rubble actually falling on people's limbs -- that seems to be one of the signature injuries of this earthquake. What happens with these crush injuries is that the muscle starts to release these toxins known as myoglobin. Those toxins get into the bloodstream. They can often shut down the kidneys. They can cause very high potassium levels. They can also cause cardiac arrest.

So, it becomes this really difficult decision for doctors, do you keep a limb or do you amputate. And sometimes, it's a dramatic decision that you say you have to take a limb, an arm or a leg in order to save a life. That is something that is happening so many times. We've seen this happen in field hospitals. Some of these amputations are even being performed in the plaza, right here behind.

Another thing that we talked about a lot is the second wave of disease after large disasters. Does it really occur? Well, I went to tent city with thousands of people to see how likely that would really be.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: We're here with Atanya (ph). She's a little baby, 2- month-old. T-shirt that says "does this diaper make my butt look big." She's going to be here with four other kids, three adults. This is the tent. This is what's like to be displaced after the earthquake.

Just everywhere you look, there are tents like this. And this is one of the things that people are most concerned about when they talk about a potential second wave of death. They're worried about infectious diseases, in part because of living conditions like this.

People living in very close quarters. There's a concern: could you start to spread diseases like -- could you start to spread respiratory illnesses?

And what about the water? Is the water clean enough to actually prevent water-borne illnesses as well.

Take a look over here. They do a pretty good job here. They've got clean water -- really important. That clean water, and you can solve a lot of problems.

For the most part, if you talk to public health officials, they'll tell you this idea of second wave of death due to infection is probably overblown. Actually, it probably doesn't happen that much. In fact, you can control some very basic things, including water. Making sure they get that, including access to some good clean food, you can probably stave off at lot of these potential infections.

Keep in mind we are talking about Haiti here. Even before the earthquake, about 45 percent of people did not have access to clean drinking water. And, of course, this is how they're living, in very close quarters. If a disease outbreak were to occur, it can spread very quickly from person to person.

One thing that's important to notice as well is how hot it is out here. It is just hot. Forget about infectious diseases, forget about (INAUDIBLE), forget Hepatitis A, worry about the heat. People are at real risk for having heat stroke if they simply don't get enough water.

Another concern people hardly ever think about is that all the aid workers that are coming to this area, well, they need to be inoculated as well. In fact, as journalists, we get these immunization cards to make sure that we don't become the carriers and the cause of a big infectious disease outbreak in a place like this.

But again, this is tent city. People live in these quarters. People concerned certainly about infectious disease outbreaks.

As things stand now, the likelihood of that seems pretty remote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: They're probably going to be living like that for some time to come. As you heard, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced and there are some plans to try and relocate them over the next several weeks.

You know, when I came down to Haiti more than a week ago now, I didn't really know what to expect. I expected there would be a lot of desperation. There might even be some violence because of that desperation.

Instead what I saw was a lot of people really in genuinely respecting each other. I want to show you an image here if I could. This is an image that I took with my camera of people waiting in line for water.

Now, keep in mind, this has been several days after the earthquake. It was very, very hot outside. And there was no pushing, there was no shoving, there was no armed guards.

Instead, there was a lot of dignity. There was a lot of respect for one another as well. And that's an image that I'm going to keep with me. That's an image that I hope you keep with you as well.

Much more in-depth coverage on Haiti. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)