Constructing a remedy: U.S. forces aid in Iraqi hospital development
Story by Pfc. Blanka Stratford
13th COSCOM Public Affairs
Members of the 31st Combat Support Hospital based out of Ft. Bliss, Texas, and local Iraqi medical personnel celebrated the renovation of a hospital in Balad, Iraq, with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, Feb. 25.
The ceremony marked the completion of ten months of hard work and effort to re-establish not only the hospital, but also the public healthcare system in the area.
"Ten months ago, the 21st CSH began a project that allowed them to spend the money acquired throughout [Operation Iraqi Freedom] to refund their medical assets," said Capt. Fayette Frahm, 31st CSH company commander and funding officer. "Since then, the 31st CSH has taken on these tasks."
The transfer of authority from the 21st to the 31st CSH occurred in January.
"What's important is that the TOA hasn't interrupted the goals and objectives of the United States for Iraq," said Sgt. First-Class Jose Roman, 31st CSH plans and operations non-commissioned officer-in-charge. "The 21st started the project, but the 31st will finish it and continue to meet the needs of the people."
The hospital chosen as the object of the appropriated funds was initially in a state of utter disrepair, said Frahm. The 31st CSH worked diligently with Iraqi hospital staff and doctors to improve the situation, upgrading a number of areas, to include the facility's operating room, labor delivery and incubation rooms.
"Additionally, although there were many private healthcare entities that cost a lot of money, the public healthcare system was virtually non-existent," she said. "What was started by the CSH before us was the initiative to modernize the Iraqis public healthcare system so that people with little or no money could still have access to medical care."
According to Dr. Khudair Abbas, the Iraqi Interim Minister of Health, as well as information compiled by the U.S. Department of State, located on Web site www.state.gov, the Iraqi medical system has received great support from the international community. Post-war improvements in Iraq's health services are as follows:
-240 Iraqi hospitals and more than 1,200 primary health clinics are operating, offering basic healthcare services for the Iraqi people.
-Doctors' salaries have increased to between $120 a month and $180 a month, in comparison to $20 a month before the war.
-Iraq's 2004 budget for health care is $950 million. Saddam Hussein's regime provided only $16 million for the Ministry of Health in 2002.
-More than 30 million doses of children's vaccinations have been procured and distributed, and the Ministry has received grants to immunize the country's 4.2 million children under the age of five against preventable diseases such as polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, and tuberculosis.
-Ministry of Health has delivered more than 25,000 tons of pharmaceuticals and supplies to healthcare facilities across Iraq.
-Three Facility Protective Services classes have trained over 1,300 personnel to protect health facilities.
-The Ministry of Health has completed a $1.7 million headquarters refurbishment project.
The Ministry of Health is currently working to guarantee that healthcare is accessible to all Iraqis regardless of "ethnicity, geographic origin, gender, or religious affiliation." In addition to the United States, Japan, Egypt, Korea, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and India are providing assistance to the Ministry of Health. This assistance includes training for doctors and nurses, construction of hospitals, and donation of ambulances.
"As a company commander, this is a once in a lifetime chance," said Frahm. "Ten years from now, my kids will be in history class reading about Iraq's change in infrastructure."
"I would like to see Iraq as a free nation," said Roman. "I'm very optimistic about the coordination between the United States and Iraq."
31st CSH Incubators