Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Iraq health workers to protest attacks, lack of employment

The lack of Iraq's government funding to the medical sector has derailed the employment of thousands of graduates of medical universities and other health workers in Iraq at a time when the country's health institutions are limping along because of decimated infrastructure and a shortage of medical staff.

As a result, pressure has increased on the dwindling number of medical professionals mainly in hospitals with the onslaught of COVID-19 patients, forcing them not to take time off while in some places they work even if they have the symptoms of the disease.

The delay in employing nearly 2,300 graduates has not only affected the efforts to fight coronavirus, but has also delayed the training chain the physicians must go through, as those in service cannot move to the next level, said the head of the Iraqi Medical Association, Abdul-Ameer Muhsin Hussein.

"The employment of these graduates is a good addition to the health system that will bring new energy of youth," Hussein added.

Protests for jobs

Iraq is one of the countries badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the confirmed cases surpassed 5,000 for the first time since the outbreak in February, bringing the total to 252,075. Total deaths stand at 7,359.
The health ministry has warned it fears the number of infections "will lead our health institutions to lose control" in the coming days.

Like other oil-producing countries, the war-ravaged nation is taking a massive hit after oil revenues - which make up nearly 95 percent of its income - dropped more than 50 percent.

The months-long unrest - which started in October when Iraqis took to the streets to demand a better life - has delayed the approval of the 2020 budget.
Alarmed by the lack of medical practitioners, the Iraqi government formed a ministerial committee in July to find ways to employ medical graduates, but the finance ministry refused because of the absence of the budget and a lack of funds.

On Tuesday, the cabinet issued an exemption for the newly graduated physicians to be employed, but did not give details on how to pay their salaries.

Iraq's health system has suffered in recent years as more than 20,000 doctors fled because of insecurity, threats, and targeted killings, leaving the country with less than 30,000 doctors, according to Iraqi Medical Association.

And 363 doctors were assassinated while hundreds endured kidnappings since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, an attack that unleashed instability and chaos that persists to this day.

What has further strained the health system, Hussein continued, is the new retirement law that went into effect this year, which mandates the retirement at 60, forcing more than 3,000 senior doctors out of the healthcare system.

"To be honest, there is a huge shortage of mainly doctors as well as health workers," said Hussein. He added the country has one of the lowest numbers of doctors and nurses per capita, standing at about 0.8 doctors per 1,000 people.

Iraqi healthcare workers are increasingly being targeted in attacks
One of the major obstacles for doctors and medical workers "is the absence of a safe environment as they increasingly face harassment and assaults from disgruntled families of patients", Hussein said. He is pushing authorities to deal with attacks against medical staff using the anti-terrorism law.

Deteriorated health infrastructure and a lack of protective gear while dealing with coronavirus patients have caused infections among doctors, he said. Since the outbreak, 44 doctors have died while more than 1,500 others were infected, a number that could be even higher.