Healthcare in Iraq has gone from being among the best healthcare systems in the Middle East to among one of the worst. Before Saddam Hussein came into power, the healthcare system was practically exemplary. Military funding accounted for only 20 percent of Iraqi imports, the rest went towards the country’s infrastructure and healthcare. However, under Saddam Hussein’s rule, percentages shifted, giving the military 80 percent of funds while domestic matters were only getting 20 percent. Now the Iraqi government, along with several organizations, is working to bring healthcare in Iraq back up to standards.
Healthcare under Saddam Hussein
In 1990 the U.N. Security Council passed 29 resolutions that identified important humanitarian needs. The Oil For Food Program was the most notable of all the resolutions because it also emphasized the inclusion of medical supplies. However, people around the country still were not getting the care they needed. The program had raised $64 billion, so the money was there; however, since it was in the hands of the government, it was still being allocated to the military. Only $2.1 billion was spent on healthcare for the entire country.
Hussein also had soldiers preventing shipments from entering the Kurdish region, affecting medical and food supplies. Salaries weren’t getting paid for months at a time, and supplies were running low. Hospitals in Mosul and Sulaymaniyah received only minimal supplies for doctors to treat their patients. After Saddam’s rule, budgets and documents were corrected to begin repairing the damaged caused to the country by the ruler. Correcting documents was the least of the doctor’s worries and the easiest fix.
The Post-Iraq War
Due to the onslaught of war, security for hospitals fell, clean water was contaminated and electricity faltered in many hospitals. Furthermore, an estimated 330 specialists had fled the country, leaving hospitals short staffed. Civilian casualties were high, and hospitals began piling up with the injured and sick. Already low supplies were even further depleted.
Military force was at an all-time high, and most of the casualties were from combat-related traumas. They had one security officer manning the checkpoint for patients that might have posed a threat. Remaining civilians had to seek physical and mental healthcare at Iraqi Special Operation Forces, which the U.S. and other nations against ISIS helped fund.
Rebuilding Healthcare in Iraq
People in Iraq strongly believe in science and engineering when it comes to their healthcare system. Healthcare in Iraq has always been classified as practical and scientifically sound with socially acceptable methods and technologies. These are made to be universally accessible to families and individuals in the country. After the invasion in 2003, healthcare in Iraq needed severe rebuilding. Child immunizations went up, physicians came back to work, more hospitals and clinics opened and government spending for Iraq healthcare went up as well.
This rebuilding will require looking into public healthcare funds. There is still 96.4 percent of people without health insurance. Most civilians rely on the Iraqi central government-run public healthcare system, which provides basic, but not extensive, treatments for patients. With cancer on the rise in the country, most people get diagnosed in Iraq but seek more affordable treatment outside of the country due to a lack of oncology treatment centers. There are investment opportunities to be taken advantage of in their system to improve healthcare and their government, the people just have to take the first step.
Improving Healthcare in Iraq
In 2010, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the RAND Corporation began working together and researching possible solutions to bring back healthcare in Iraq to where it was before Hussein and even improve it. They proposed four solutions to regain the healthcare system they once had.
- New physicians should be required to work exclusively in public hospitals for a minimal amount of years before becoming eligible to move to more private hospitals.
- The numbers of hours worked should be linked to the compensation earned in the public sector. This should promote pay raises and encourage physicians to work a full schedule each week.
- Physicians should be required to work in public hospitals during the day, but with the option to have a private practice at night. This could relieve economic stress on physicians providing for their families.
- Public and private health practices should be separated entirely. This will require physicians to commit to one practice for a certain amount of years before moving on to other fields in the health industry.
These solutions will be applied over time and help shape Iraq’s healthcare system overall.
Organizations Working to Help the Situation
Many organizations are helping to improve the healthcare system in Iraq by funding and creating socially acceptable methods and technologies for public and private hospitals in the country. WHO is ensuring certain services address issues with the hospital practices through the Basic Health Services Package (BHSP), which will address and ensure effective and standardized health practices for the population. The BHSP works with all health facilities and the government to work on improving overall healthcare accessibility in the country.
Another well-known organization, USAID, is helping rebuild healthcare in Iraq. Working with the Iraqi Ministry of Health, the goal is to improve operational guidelines, delivery services, management systems in clinics and advanced quality standards. This will help strengthen the capacity of health administrators and help them improve operational guidelines. USAID is also working to help women to become professional healthcare providers, strengthening their relationship with healthcare and the community. It is hopeful that involving more women will have a positive impact on maternity levels and expand healthcare altogether.
USAID and the Ministry of Health are working with organizations and volunteers every day to improve healthcare in Iraq. WHO has provided and is working to implement the Basic Health Service Package to help regulate and deliver accessible healthcare to the population. With the help of these organizations and the continued support of the Iraqi government, there should be noticeable improvements in the state of healthcare in Iraq.