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health reforms vital in kurdistan

Qassim Khidhir Hamad
Sixty percent of Iraqi Kurdistan Region doctors have not been through any health related training in the past five years.
29.06.2010  |  Erbil

Peoples’ complaints concerning the doctor’s skill and negligence is on the rise in Kurdistan Region; and the doctors who have committed fatal mistakes are rarely being punished or brought to court.

Didar Ismail is one of the many citizens very angry at doctors. Last year, in December, Ismail’s father became very sick just one day before the Muslim holiday of "Eid al-Adha" (the Festival of Sacrifice). Ismail took his father to the main hospital in Erbil city, Rizgari Hospital, where he saw there were no doctors on duty only nurses because of the four days holiday.

Ismail struggled for two days just to see a doctor. After using all his personal contacts, two doctors came to the hospital to check his father. The doctors were unable to diagnose his father’s exact illness. After that, a well-known Arab doctor from Baghdad who currently lives in Erbil come to the hospital with the help of personal contact, the doctor discovered that Ismail’s father has diabetic; but it was too late because on the same day Ismail’s father passed away.

“The doctors here are very conceited and unskilful,” said Ismail angrily.

He added: ‘’If I get sick, I will not go to the doctor because instead of curing you, they worsen your situation.’’

Dr. Rawand Saifadin, the Acting Manager of Rizgari hospital, rubbished Ismail’s claims, however.

“The patient’s son probably is very angry because he has lost his father. I don’t blame him. But our doctors are always on duty in every holiday, this is a rule,” he said.

He also rejected Ismail’s claim that his father was mis-diagnosed.

“Sometimes it is difficult for any doctor in any country to specify the sickness of a patient,” he said.

Beside of all the public complaining, the doctors admit that there is a lack of training and no modern health system.

Dr. Fatah Hawrami, a specialist in Community Medicine in Sulaimaniyah city, remarked that university research has found that more than 60 percent of doctors in the Kurdistan Region have not had any new training in the past five years.

“Personally I don’t know what kind of system the Ministry of Health has (the region’s Ministry of Health), I don’t think they have any system,’’ he said.

‘’The Ministry of Health should constantly open training courses for the doctors by bringing experts from outside. And the doctors should be obliged to join the trainings,” he added.

Dr. Goran Abdullah, who received a master’s degree in health policy in the United States, said the Kurdistan Region Ministry of Health gives priority to doctors over patients. Abdullah wishes the ministry would review its health policy.

In the Kurdistan parliament there is still no law regarding patients’ rights. Already a draft law has been sent to the parliament, but it has not been ratified.

‘’Yes, there is a sense of distrust between the public and doctors and we have to fix it,” said Dr. Hassan Mahmud Sura, head of the parliamentary health and environment committee.

Dr. Sura mentioned that next November the Ministry of Health will hold a conference, inviting foreign health experts and private health companies, in order to reform the health system in the Kurdistan Region.

He said the current health system is a very old system, established by the British in 1920.

Most of the doctors in Kurdistan have two jobs; they work for public sector and private clinics or hospitals. Many people also complain about doctors’ private work. Patients pay 20, 000 Iraqi dinars (18$US) for a meeting with a doctor in a private clinic for just a four to six minute consultation. Sometimes, patients wait months to see a good doctor.

“I had a serious back ache. A friend gave me the address of a doctor. I went to the clinic and his clerk told me I would have to wait three months to meet the doctor, because the doctor has a lot of people to see,” said Sarkawt Osman, one frustrated patient.

Dr. Goran Abdullah believes the private sector and public sector should be separated. And the government has to work to develop the private sector by attracting foreign companies to invest in the health sector.

Dr. Abdullah questioned 136 doctors across the Kurdistan Region regarding their private and public sector work. 80 percent of the doctors believe the private and public sector should be separated. 84 percent said they are ready to work only in public sector if their monthly salary is increased by 300 percent.