Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Iraq's medical staff bear the toll of the coronavirus crisis

Years of conflict and past sanctions have taken their toll on Iraq’s healthcare system.

However, doctors in the country now highlight that mismanagement and corruption from the government has left it in an even worse condition.

Authorities have squandered several opportunities to develop the country’s healthcare infrastructure and improve working conditions for doctors.

Iraq spends disproportionately little on its healthcare, compared with other regional countries such as Jordan or Lebanon. In its 2019 budget, it allocated 2.2 percent for healthcare, compared with 18 percent for security and 13 percent for its oil ministry.

Ultimately, Iraq’s medical workers pay the price for this neglect and risk their own lives to carry out their jobs. It was bad enough before the coronavirus pandemic, which has now placed them under even more unimaginable strain.

Due to the underfunding of Iraq’s healthcare system, medical workers do not have enough protective equipment whilst treating COVID patients.

“Many of us have had very little to no PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], especially in hospitals dealing with a large number of patients.

When medical staff do receive [PPE], sometimes it does not even work properly, and this has made doctors more vulnerable to infection of COVID-19,” Shaymaa Alkamali, a doctor in Baghdad, told Inside Arabia. “Most of our staff actually [got infected with] COVID.”

“Due to these massive shortages, many doctors have been forced to buy gloves and medical masks themselves.”

Iraq has recorded over 100,000 cases of COVID-19, and over 4,000 deaths (as of July 22), although there were past accusations that authorities were covering up the real figures, to prevent public outrage. In any case, an influx of patients has overwhelmed the country’s hospitals since the pandemic was announced in March, yet facilities lack enough means to treat everybody, and doctors are consequentially overworked.

“There is also a large number of patients in our particular clinic, no less than 100 per day. This huge extra demand is difficult for us to cope with,” said Alkamali.

“There is a shortage of ICU beds which makes it harder to keep the death toll to a minimum. While this is a problem all over the world, before [the pandemic] we [already] had a poor healthcare system that was in danger.”

Nearly all the hospitals beds are full and there is no available space in many healthcare centers. Very little oxygen is available, and therefore some citizens have bought it themselves and donated it to the hospitals.

Many doctors work all day with little to no rest, sometimes up to 48 hours in one shift. Some doctors have even collapsed and died under the strain.

Under these intolerable conditions, medical workers cannot work productively, and this prevents them treating patients effectively.