The Southeast Permanente Medical Group

The Southeast Permanente Medical Group is an integral part of Kaiser Permanente. Our physicians can coordinate virtually every aspect of patient care - from referrals to laboratory tests to medications. With everything under one umbrella, our patients receive the highest continuity of care.

March 24, 2011

Three TSPMG Physicians Go on Medical Mission to Haiti

From left to right: Scott Pugel, MD, Jaime Pham, MD and
Jim Toth, MD, at the Whitney Clinic in Hinche, Haiti.

One of TSPMG's newest physicians has had a long commitment to serve the people of Haiti through medical mission trips to the besieged island nation. Jim Toth, MD, who serves at the Sugar Hill-Buford Medical Office as a primary care physician, has visited Haiti every year for the past 11 years. During his trips, Dr. Toth helped set up the Whitney Clinic, a year-round care facility in the heart of that country.

In a bit of irony, Dr. Toth's hiring happened because of his successful efforts to ask other physicians to join him in Haiti. “He recruited me to go with him a decade ago,” says Scott Pugel, MD, Managing Physician at the Gwinnett Medical Office. “I was able to recruit him to join TSPMG last year.”

At the end of February, Drs. Toth and Pugel visited Haiti one more time, this time joined by Jaime Pham, MD, a pediatrician at Gwinnett, along with other physicians and dentists. They returned to the Whitney Clinic in Hinche, a town 40 miles north of Port-au-Prince, and checked in on patients, providing free primary, pediatric and dental care for a week, eventually serving more than 1,300 Haitians.

For a unique look at this medical mission trip, below are extracts from e-mail updates written by Dr. Toth's wife, Catherine.

Monday, Feb. 21:

"There are several ‘good things’ this year: The roads were nice and smooth; they are starting to put in power-lines—which means lights are coming!  This will allow for travel at night at some point in the future.

"[This year, the clinic area has] new paint, new lights and  working fans, oh my!  VERY NICE!!  [It] will be much more comfortable!

"Scott Pugel and Jaime Pham saw an 8-day old brought in with jaundice and dehydration.  The first picture I got, it looked like a doll it was so tiny!  Then I got the whole story with an up close picture.  The baby has a cleft lip and palate... [causing] a nutrition/feeding issue."

Tuesday, Feb. 22:

"The little girl with the cleft palate came back today and is already looking better now that feeding is being done correctly.  I gave them the info on Operation Smile, so hopefully she can be put on their list for the next time they are in town."

Wednesday, Feb. 23:

"Today was a tough day all around.  They actually saw less patients by the numbers today (183 medical and 83 teeth pulled by dental), but they were MUCH sicker. This is a typical pattern for the middle of the week; tomorrow will probably be the same if not worse."

Thursday, Feb. 24:

"At first, Jim texted that they saw 209 patients on the medical side and 42 patients in dental with 54 extractions.  That seemed about right, when compared to the rest of the week.  Then I got a text telling me 'Ooops, I made a mistake! Medical saw 290, as in ten short of 300!'  (Now first of all, his mother always told him, NO ONE wants to hear their doctor say ‘Ooops!’), but this was a big difference!

"[Today, another member of the team] purchased 80 lbs. of rice and beans in the market and by 6 pm it was all gone.  Rice and beans??  Evidently they don’t just hand out medicine in the pharmacy, especially if it needs to be taken with food!  SO you get your prescription filled and a bag of rice and beans as well.

"We talked briefly about all the sad patient stories from yesterday as well as several from today.  There are more sad stories than most people realize.  The team will still interact with dignity in the face of death, the patients deserve that.  Too often they are told to go to Cange [another medical facility] and they can be made better or that an expensive treatment will cure them.  We have to tell the truth, there is nothing that can be done; we will work with you and your family so that you will be comfortable and your pain will be controlled."

Friday, Feb. 25:

"Some final numbers:  Medical saw a total for the week of 1,112 and Dental 225.  They purchased 1,300 lbs of beans and rice to hand out to over 144 people.  They averaged 7 lbs. of rice and 2.25 lbs. of pinto beans per person.  I asked when we started to give out food in the pharmacy and he told me a couple of years ago.  People would come in complaining of belly pain, but there was no medicine necessary.  It was hunger.  They don’t give food to everyone, only the very poor.

"That’s it for this year.  They get up at 5 am tomorrow, mass is at 6 am and they plan to be on the road to [Port au Prince] by 7:30 am.... Goodnight!"