Medical Concerns Mount After Quake

The earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday has essentially wiped out the few medical resources that existed there, and experts predict a health care disaster in the days to come.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on "The Early Show", referencing 1998 statistics -- the last year of reliable numbers -- there are just over two doctors for every 10,000 people.

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"There are very few nurses there and at base line -- before the earthquake - there were very few hospitals with acceptable facilities," she said. "Now those needs become all the more essential because we have to remember every time we see a person pulled out of rubble and wreckage, there is a good likelihood that that person will require extensive hospital care. Operating room facilities, blood transfusions, dialysis, IV fluids. None of those things are possible now."

"Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith remarked on reports that medical supplies are already gone in Haiti.

Another issue facing the Haitian population is HIV and AIDS infection. Five percent of the country is infected with the deadly disease.

Ashton explained, "It makes the rescue and treatment mission even more precarious for the personnel there."

Ashton said Haiti also has a golden window of opportunity to save the trapped and injured. She said after an earthquake rescuers have 24 to 48 hours when 85 to 95 percent of survivors are pulled from wreckage.

"Once they are extricated, they will need extensive medical care," she said. "Right now medical personnel are arriving, but they will be in the process of setting up mobile hospital units, tents, operating room facilities, and so that those doctors and nurses can actually take care of these people."

Smith noted that the window is closing fast.

"It does extend slightly up to three to five days," Ashton said, "but we need to remember that the people who come out there have are really going to require a lot of medical support. Some of those people may immediate to actually be removed from the island, and this is something that we're going to be watching unfold hour to hour."

Ashton said access to perform surgery for crush injuries, massive lacerations, and internal trauma is going to "paramount" over the next few days.

She added that the crisis isn't over when wounds are tended.

Ashton said, "Then you have to worry about infection not only from the crush injury, but from the lack of clean water. This is a huge medical catastrophe."



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