Friday, September 07, 2007


Iraq only has a third of the doctors it needs

(AP) -- Iraq only has a third of the doctors it needs because killings and kidnappings of the medical professionals prompted many to leave the country, its military surgeon general said Thursday. A recent decline in violence is tempting some to return, said Brig. Gen. Samir Abdullah Hassan, surgeon general for the country's soldiers, sailors, airmen and special forces.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Samir said he didn't have figures for the number of doctors practicing in Iraq now compared to the number before the war. But the military alone has only about a fourth of the physicians its needs - there are 148 and the need is for 600 to 700, he said. For the country overall, the Ministry of Health only has 35 percent of the physicians it needs to staff its civilian hospitals, he said.
Samir, who was trained as an orthopedic surgeon, was in Washington the past week for meetings with U.S. military and civilian medical facilities. He said colleagues who had fled to Jordan, Egypt and other nations have been in touch with him recently, saying they would like to come home. "There is (still) kidnapping, there is assassination, but it's decreased," he said.
"I can assure you if the security improved more and more, the majority of them would return back to the country," said Samir. To attract and keep more in the profession, the government also needs to increase salaries from the roughly $300 a month now paid to newly trained doctors, Samir said in a briefing with Dr. Ward S. Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health.
Casscells said more attention was paid by the U.S. to Iraqi health care before violence spiraled in early 2006. He indicated that he's taking another look at the possibilities now that security seems to be improving in some areas. Like everything else in Iraq, rebuilding the health sector has been greatly slowed by violence and problems within the Iraqi government.
For instance, of some 70 health care centers scheduled for construction by last July, only 44 were completed. Of those, 20 had been turned over to the Ministry of Health to administer and only eight were open at the end of July, according to the most recent report by Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

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