Regional Report - Iraq


Calling all Iraqi doctors

The Iraqi Health Ministry has set up a committee to contact medical doctors who have fled the country, and persuade them to return, a senior health official said on 3 August.

“We have e-mailed all the physicians who fled Iraq because of the deteriorated security situation, [asking them] to return, and develop the health service, after remarkable progress in the security situation,” Deputy Health Minister Essam Namiq Abdullah told IRIN in Baghdad.

“The Ministry went through an acute situation as a result of the dearth of senior physicians… but now most doctors have expressed a readiness to return to their institutions and resume work,” he said. Abdullah said the ministry had devised incentives to encourage those who had fled to return to work, including help with travel costs and increased salaries. He did not elaborate.

In an exclusive interview with Middle East Health (published in the May-June 2008 issue) Dr Adel Abdullah, the inspectorgeneral for the Iraqi Ministry of Health, said the ministry had developed an incentive package to attract doctors back to Iraq.

“This year (2008) we have increased doctors’ salaries by 100% and nurses by 50%,” he said.

“We are also going to make an extra payment in addition to the normal, regulation payment. Doctors with a subspecialty will benefit from the new payment structure – which is a basic payment plus a payment per procedure.”

Housing

The Ministry was also planning to build housing for doctors inside Baghdad’s Medical City, a compound in central Baghdad which houses the Health Ministry, Medical College, key hospitals and medical institutions.

According to Essam Abdullah, over 165 doctors had resumed work in the past 20 days (prior to 3 August), and he expected that more than 90% of those who had fled would return this year.

Dr Adel Abdullah told Middle East Health around 8,000 doctors fled Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. According to IRIN some 618 medical employees had been killed, including 132 physicians.

The Health Ministry had been funding hospitals in neighbouring countries to treat those patients it had not been able to treat in Iraq, Essam Abdullah said. More than 1,400 patients had been sent to Syria, Iran, Jordan and India since June 2007, mainly for cardiac and eye surgery, and the ministry was studying about 7,500 other patient files.

“Since the beginning of this year, we have managed to overcome about 50% of the problems we faced in the past,” Essam Abdullah said.

Too early to return? Up to now, the ministry’s incentives have not been sufficient to lure Jamal Ajil, who fled to Jordan in 2006, to return to Baghdad. But he still wants to return.

“It is still too early to go back,” Ajil told IRIN in an emailed response. “We all agree that there is an improvement in the security situation, but this thing is still fragile,” Ajil said.

“And the most important thing is the difficulties one would have leaving Iraq a second time if the security situation worsened again, because of the difficulty of getting Iraqi exit visas… I would prefer to stay until early next year and see,” Ajil said.

● Read the interview with Dr Adel Abdulla – Resuscitating Iraq’s healthcare – online at: www.middleeasthealthmag.com (interviews.

Crackdown on illegal medicines

Iraq’s Health Ministry is leading a crackdown on expired and illegally imported medicines which have flooded the Iraqi market since the US-led invasion in 2003, a senior health official said mid August, according to IRIN.

“The Ministry is leading a huge project to monitor the mechanism of importing medicines to Iraq, after we found that about 70% of the drugs in Iraqi markets have either been imported illegally or have expired,” said Adil Muhsin, the Health Ministry’s inspector-general.

About 100 samples of imported medicines were tested recently by the ministry; some were found to be unfit for consumption as they contained poisonous substances, Muhsin said.

“Some of these medicines cannot even be used in their countries of origin as they are only manufactured for Iraq,” Muhsin told IRIN.

“We’ve formed a committee, with representatives from the ministries of the interior, defence and national security, to hunt down unregistered pharmacies and street vendors [of medicines],” he said.

Muhsin said the expired medicines can cause serious illnesses to those who take them, including stomach and intestinal illnesses, internal bleeding or kidney failure.

Muhsin blamed corruption at the Iraqi border for the availability of the medicines, saying the government had now designated only six border points through which medicines can be imported.

“There will be specialist teams with modern equipment at these border points to check all medicines and we plan to put an end to this phenomenon by 1 September,” he said.

Muhsin said Iraqi security forces had confiscated “tonnes” of medicines of unknown origin during a military operation in August in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad.


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ate of upload: 29th September 2008

                                  
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