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[casi-analysis] Iraq's Prewar Health Care System Was Once Region's Best

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This seems a remarkably frank article. No shifted blame on to SH's
'neglect', mention of sanctions, mention of the previous high
standards, clear indications of serious shortcomings eg some
hospitals without antibiotics. Just recently there has been
considerable attention focused on the state of hospitals etc.

Iraq's Prewar Health Care System Was Once Region's Best

By Peter Jennings

B A S R A, Iraq, March 18  Following the car bomb that exploded at a
Baghdad hotel Wednesday, most of the casualties were taken to the Ibn
Nafis hospital, near the site of the bombing. The 240-bed facility is
40 years old.

The day after, surgeon Mohamed al Amari, who is also the hospital's
director, was checking on his patients.

One man, who was working at the hotel reception desk when the bomb
went off, was in the hospital having shrapnel removed. He recalled
his experience.

"I heard the bombing and realized it was so close, and a splinter of
glass came flying into my stomach," he said in Arabic.

Among the Best in the Middle East

Iraqi hospitals used to be among the very best in the Middle East,
and Iraqi doctors have a long reputation of specialization and
research. But the war was tough, and 10 years of economic sanctions
on Iraq were tough, too.

Right after the war, there was no security, and many hospitals were
looted, as a result. There were horror stories of patients' families
storming hospitals, demanding care.

Amari said one of his biggest concerns is that a man will come into
the hospital, armed with a gun, and demand that doctors save the life
of someone who has been shot in a gunfight  or just shot.

The United States, Amari believes, has not made Iraq more secure.

After the hotel bombing, the hospital staff that lives in other parts
of the city worried about getting to work. The city, they claim, is
just not safe at night.

Even Amari was afraid to drive to work.

"You don't know  maybe looters, maybe bombing, maybe everything. I
don't know," he said.

Luckily, Ibn Nafis does not have an urgent need for medicine or
medical equipment.

When the hospital is in need of something, Amari asks the Ministry of
Health, which works with the U.S. occupation authorities. He usually
gets what he needs in time.

The United States has increased doctors' salaries by about $20 a
month, but they still make less than $200 a month.

One of the pediatric hospitals has recently been given 10 new
incubators, and there has been a campaign to immunize children
against childhood diseases.

There are 240 public hospitals in Iraq and 1,200 health centers. They
could all use something. Some hospitals have not been able to get
antibiotics, and there is only one liquid oxygen producer in the
entire country.

The United States and many private organizations have been helping
the Iraqis restore the system. But it is nowhere near its former

Mark Parkinson

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