Village hospital gets coalition help

9 Jul 2003 | Army Spc. Benjamin R. Kibbey

A medical team from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines went to Aim Al Tamr, Iraq July 9 to address the hospital's needs in an ongoing effort to help the local medical community.

With the next nearest hospital 86 kilometers away in the city of Karbala, the village hospital is essential to the community. The team members are assessing several shortcomings that have plagued the small hospital even before the war began.

One of the major problems is the lack of drinkable water, said Dr. Ali Mayu Fahad, the hospital's manager.  Water for drinking and cooking comes from either a main water pipeline near the village or a tanker truck driven from Karbala.

Currently, a tanker supplies all the water to the village because farmers have made holes in the main pipeline to get water for themselves and their animals, which has caused both a water shortage and contamination of the water supplied by the pipeline, he said.

There is well water available, but the water is not drinkable and used only for washing clothes and bathing, Fahad said.

One possible solution is the installation of a water purification system on the roof of the hospital, said Maj. Suzanne Reethof-Bower, an Army reservist from Blue Bell, Pa. assigned to the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade from Philadelphia.

There are twelve tanks on the roof of the hospital already used for storage of well water, and these could be tied-in to a water purifier, said Dr. Asseal Saad Salih, the son of Dr. Saad Salil Mahdi Humadi, who is head of the Ministry of Health for the Karbala province.

Once the right purifier is found, Reethof-Bower said it could sanitize up to 540 gallons an hour, thereby fixing the hospital's water problem.

Another issue the medical team is examining is acquiring equipment needed for patient care, said Reethof-Bower.

"I'm going to put in a request for a dental chair, and they need to have a refrigerator for the blood bank," she said.  "They want a scale for infants and children, and their two wheelchairs had wheels, but no tires on the front wheels, so I'm going to try to take one wheelchair, and maybe one scale, to them sometime next week."

Some other projects being looked at would involve reconstruction, according to Reethof-Bower.

"They want a new emergency room, a washing room, and an X-ray room," she said.

The improvements to the hospital are awaiting allocation of money from coalition forces, Reethof-Bower said.

"(The hospital staff) give us a request and an estimate, and we get the money, and then we hand it over to Dr. Saad (Humadi)," she said.

Humadi, the minister of health for the province, oversees the use of all the money and has a group of people he trusts check the work and materials for quality, Reethof-Bower said.

In addition to helping with equipment and structural improvements for the hospital, the medical section also is helping the hospital to provide medical care to the village, Reethof-Bower said.

"At the moment, the medications are free when the patients are in the hospital, and the hospital pays for the procedures that get done at the hospital," she said.

The enthusiasm of the Iraqi doctors has been a huge help in the effort to get the local medical establishment on to its feet, Reethof-Bower said.

"The doctors have a different way of looking at things than the politicians," she said.  "They work for the people.  That's the way they work, and that's the way they think.  These doctors are very progressive thinking."

As upgrades are completed and new equipment brought into place, doctors and nurses at Aim Al Tamr Hospital will be able to do even better what they already do best: take care of the people.