McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram Examines Iraq’s Health Care System
McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram examines how years of economic sanctions and war, as well as alleged corruption, have harmed Iraq's health system, which before the 1990s "had perhaps the best" care in the Middle East. "Stories of missing drugs, of desperately ill-equipped doctors and of patients left to suffer the consequences are everywhere in Iraq's public health care system," McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram writes.
Local doctors, patients, aid workers and public officials say that health ministry officials routinely steal drugs from hospital orders to be sold on the black market and millions of dollars for clinics and medical equipment has slipped through the cracks or gone towards wasted purchases of expired medicines, according to McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram.
Though government health care in Iraq is free, patients who can afford it invest in private health care coverage, so as to avoid the ill-equipped public facilities. For those who cannot escape public health care, they do so knowing that ensuring the hospital has the right supplies to treat them often means bringing the supplies with them or bribing a health worker that can get them faster service, according to McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram.
"Much of the time we don't have IV fluid, so the family will go out to buy it and bring it to us," Zinah Jawad, a second-year medical resident at Baghdad Teaching Hospital, said. "The pharmacies know they are desperate, so they charge them three or four times the normal price." In addition to lacking the medical equipment needed to diagnose illnesses quickly, many hospitals are understaffed or falling apart, according to McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram. And few of the estimated 15,000 doctors that fled Iraq because of war have returned home. Roughly 40% of Iraq's 210 public hospitals need major repairs, according to the government.
"Last year, the government spent about $800 million buying medicines, officials said, but while health spending has increased from $62 per capita in 2007 to $100 in 2008, doctors said they haven't seen improvements to match," McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram writes. In 2007, the health ministry reported 150 corruption cases to the Public Integrity Commission Iraq's "most powerful anti-corruption body," viewed by most as "weak and ineffective," the McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram writes. According to Commission officials, less than 3% of the cases they investigate end in convictions (Reilly, McClatchy Newspapers/Star-Telegram, 5/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.