photo: Eddy van Wessel


Saturday, August 24, 2013

We deserve better healthcare

“Haram!” the eye doctor in the Beiruty hospital says to me, when she warns me not to visit her colleagues in Iraq. “We get Iraqi’s here and see what goes wrong. We have to solve their mistakes!” 

I am lucky that I got the problems with one of my eyes whilst in Lebanon, she says, and I agree. I have seen some of the hospitals in Iraq and in Kurdistan from the inside. Many of them are dirty, overcrowded and old. Here in Lebanon all is new and modern and clean. Patients are treated one by one, doctors are nice and well educated, they have new equipment and know how to use it.

My eye doctor does not have to warn me: if I can avoid Iraqi hospitals, I will. A trip to Holland is easily made. But I am lucky, like the rich in this country are. All others don’t have the choice and have to submit themselves to the dangers and limitations of the Iraqi and Kurdish healthcare.

And not only humans. One of my cats got ill. I was amazed the vet did not even listen to her heart, take her temperature or in any other way examined her before he decided on a treatment. The table for examination was dirty, the little examining room full of old furniture, there was no medical equipment.

It’s only because I know a little about healthcare I could argue with him and get a treatment that might work, but how do people manage that are more ignorant? And this is only a vet!

Doctors in Iraq were the lucky ones with the highest points in high school who were allowed to study medicine. But that was not a choice, and some of them do not have the mentality needed to be a good doctor. Many do not realize they have to keep up with the developments in their field and keep using outdated treating methods. New developments, like a treatment for HIV and better cancer treatment, do not even enter Iraq. 

Some people suggest that because of this default in the system, the Kurdish authorities have opened the doors wide for private clinics. Foreign doctors have to fill the gap that exists because their Iraqi colleagues do not want to change.

But does Kurdistan not deserve better? Has the disaster with diabetic patients losing eye sight after the wrong treatment – whose ever fault it was - not shown us that it’s not enough to put a new system next to the old one? That it is dangerous even to leave the old system operating the way it does? If even the doctors in Beirut know how badly their Iraqi colleagues are functioning, isn’t it high time for action? 

This blog was published in Kurdish in Kurdistani Nwe newspaper

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