Haiti hospital chief kidnapped amid coronavirus emergency

Reuters, by Andre Paultre, Robenson Sanon, March 27, 2020

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – The director of one of Haiti’s top hospitals was kidnapped on Friday, prompting staff to refuse to take in new patients in protest as the impoverished country battles an outbreak of the novel coronavirus amid a spike in gang violence.

Dr. Jerry Bitar, a surgeon, was kidnapped shortly after leaving for work at Hospital Bernard Mevs from his home in an upmarket neighborhood of the capital, hospital staff told Reuters.

Kidnappings for ransom have sharply increased this year amid a political and economic crisis in Haiti, which according to the World Bank is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Police confirmed 15 kidnapping cases in January alone. Gangs appear to strike indiscriminately, with victims ranging from Haitian schoolchildren, lawmakers and businessmen to foreign aid workers.

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