Highlights

 
Quotable
Every nation has its war party. It is not the party of democracy. It is the party of autocracy. It seeks to dominate absolutely.
Senator Robert M. La Follette
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
December 16, 2008

Iraqi Hospitals Suffer From Corruption, Shortages


by Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail

BAQUBA - A nurse at Baquba General Hospital asked Ahmed Ali, who co-authored this report, for a bribe to look after his sick baby. It was hardly an exceptional demand. Patients around Iraq have begun commonly to speak of the need to bribe medical staff to get some form of care.

"Nurses in Iraqi hospitals are no angels of mercy," Falah Najim, who was a patient at the main hospital in Baquba, told IPS. "They look after their pockets, not the patient."

The practice of bribing medical staff has been around since at least the 1990s, during the difficult days of the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War. After the U.S. invasion of 2003, this seems to have become worse, like so much else in Iraq.

"The profession of medicine has changed from a profession of mercy to just money-making," Abdullah Najeeb, a trader in Baquba city, about 25 mi. northeast of Baghdad, told IPS.

Staff shortage has clearly made the problem worse. More than half of about 36,000 medical workers who were in the country at the time the U.S. invasion, including doctors, nurses and other staff, have fled the country. "It is very hard to see a doctor in a hospital or in a clinic," hospital employee Sabay Ismail told IPS.

Stories of suffering in hospitals have become commonplace.

"I spent a night in the public hospital without air-conditioning," the mother of a baby, who did not wish to give her name, told IPS. "My baby kept sweating all night in the heat. The resident doctor came to see the child only once. I took my baby away; we did not complete the treatment. Then I could not find good medical treatment even in the private hospitals. The baby died because of their negligence."

"There are two public hospitals in Baquba; one for children and the other is general," an official in the Diyala directorate-general of health told IPS, requesting anonymity. In both, he said, "we continue to suffer from a shortage of doctors."

"Twenty pregnant women might have only one doctor to help them deliver the child within a space of one or two hours," the husband of a pregnant woman due to deliver told IPS. "Hundreds of people who go to hospital may find an employee or nurse, but no doctor."

The few doctors who remain are mostly resident doctors or young graduates. Most specialists and senior doctors have long since fled.

The ones who remain make do with ill-equipped hospitals. "The government specifies big funds and projects for renovation and equipment for the hospitals," an official in the provincial health office told IPS. "But deals are made between the contractors and the politicians."

Former deputy minister for health Dr. Amer al-Khuzaie had told IPS in 2005 that his ministry was allocated a billion dollars of the $18.6 billion set aside by the U.S. government for rebuilding Iraq.

But the Ministry of Health does not have control over the funds, Khuzaie said. Instead USAID, the U.S. government body responsible for allocating reconstruction funds, handed out contracts to foreign corporations. The corporations spent the funds as they saw fit.

Now, the problem is more of corruption. In late 2007, the Ministry of Health was taken over by Shia politicians aligned with cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. There is almost nothing of the budget to show in Iraq's hospitals. "They only paint the walls," says Baquba resident Bahira Aboud.

Private hospitals have their own handicaps. "Two months ago my 6-year-old daughter went for tonsil surgery," said resident Abul-Amir Mahood. "After they gave her anesthetic, the electricity shut down. They had no generator. I waited for my daughter to regain consciousness, then just took her back home."

The Health Ministry has reported a recent outbreak of cholera. This has scared residents in Baquba because the local hospitals are not equipped to deal with it.

In Baquba, as in many other cities, most of the established clinics are closed. Some doctors see patients in their houses, which have been turned into impromptu, ill-equipped clinics.

A large number of such "clinics" have come up, where doctors charge patients $10 to $20 for a consultation. When the average monthly salary – for those lucky enough to have a job – is around $180, this is a heavy fee.

And not for the best treatment. "There are doctors who see more than 100 patients a day," said resident Fatima Edan. "Their diagnosis is badly affected by the speed with which they go through patients. The quicker the better; they are greedy for more money."

(Inter Press Service)

comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • Iraqi Hospitals Suffer From Corruption, Shortages
    12/16/2008

  • Iraq Kidnappings Now Become 'Unofficial'
    8/30/2008

  • Sectarian Clashes Flare Up Again in Iraq
    8/27/2008

  • 'Provincial Saddam' Goes, Finally
    8/15/2008

  • Iraqi Sunnis Complain of Increased Iranian Influence
    8/14/2008

  • Iran May Gain From Iraq's Suffering
    8/8/2008

  • New Iraq Operation Gets Surprise Support
    8/6/2008

  • Iraqis Skeptical About Obama, McCain
    6/25/2008

  • Iraq's Widows Victims of Occupation, Social Codes
    6/19/2008

  • Iraqis Running Out of Water in Rising Heat
    5/10/2008

  • Tense Truce Between Awakening Groups and Iraqi Government
    4/9/2008

  • Shia Battles Spread to Baquba
    4/8/2008

  • In Iraq, Childhood Is a Thing of the Past
    3/11/2008

  • In Baquba, Happiness Is a Memory
    3/8/2008

  • Sahwa Forces Challenge Govt, and Win
    3/6/2008

  • Tensions Rise Between 'Awakening' and Iraqi Govt Forces
    3/1/2008

  • Occupation Strangles Farmers
    3/1/2008

  • Baquba Losing Life and Hope
    2/28/2008

  • Iraq Unemployment Too Becomes an Epidemic
    2/21/2008

  • Iraqis Still Left in the Dark
    2/16/2008

  • A New Force Called Sahwa Shows Its Muscle
    2/14/2008

  • US-Backed Groups Challenge Iraqi Government
    2/12/2008

  • In Iraq, Learning Can Be Dangerous
    2/12/2008

  • Violence Draws Veil Over Women
    2/1/2008

  • Iraqis: 'US the Biggest Producer of Terror'
    1/26/2008

  • Baquba: Under Curfew, This Is No Life
    1/25/2008

  • Fuel Crisis Freezes Iraqi Life
    1/10/2008

  • Iraqi Govt to Slash Food Rations Despite Far Higher Budget Than Saddam
    12/28/2007

  • Education Is the Latest Casualty in Baquba
    12/11/2007

  • Corruption Adds to Baquba's Problems
    11/16/2007

  • Iraq: Millions Trapped in Their Own Country
    11/6/2007

  • In Baquba, Better Security Brings No Reassurance
    11/3/2007

  • Many Iraqis Search Hopelessly for the Kidnapped
    9/5/2007

  • Iraqi Children Robbed of Childhood
    9/3/2007

  • Baquba Caught Between the US and Al-Qaeda
    8/21/2007

  • Sectarianism Splits Security in Diyala
    8/8/2007

  • Baquba Denied the Healing Touch
    7/26/2007

  • Baquba: Living in a Dead City
    7/24/2007

  • In Baquba, Mass Graves Dug to Deal With Death Toll
    7/18/2007

  • Iraq: Al-Qaeda Escapes U.S. Assault
    7/15/2007
  • Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail write for Inter Press Service.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2014 Antiwar.com