War on Terrorism

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

U.S. Team Examines Ways to Boost Care at Iraqi Hospital

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 10, 2009 - Iraqi doctors from the Karama Hospital in Kut, Iraq, discussed surgery procedures, techniques and some health care challenges they face with members of the 848th Forward Surgical Team last week. The visit was part of Operation Gunner Med, a joint medical civil-military operation between the director general of health for Iraq's Wasit province and the 41st Fires Brigade, designed to restore medical capabilities in Wasit and bring care up to regional health care standards.

Five Iraqi doctors presented their cases March 5 to the U.S. team, shared how they conducted their surgeries, and discussed the issues they face at the Karama Hospital.

"Our problem here is the tools," Dr. Dhafer, an Iraqi general surgeon at the hospital, said. "If you give us the tools, then we can do our job."

The equipment and instruments the doctors use at the Karama Hospital are out of date, and they do not have the supplies needed to perform surgeries the same way as in the United States, Dhafer explained.

"They are doing the best they can," Army Lt. Col. Sue Springer, a certified registered nurse anesthetist with the 848th FST, said. "They are using sutures and supplies in such modification that it could impact the health care of the patient, but they are trying their best."

Administration and admittance procedures also are a problem at the hospital, Dhafer noted.

"Some staff do not coordinate with us, such as the emergency room staff, and they do not know how to prioritize the patients," Dhafer said.

The 848th FST cannot supply the doctors with the medical equipment they need, but they can help to train their medical staff on prioritization of patients, Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Paul Perlik, an orthopedic surgeon with the 848th FST, said.

"We have to figure out some way to give them a leg up to help their system, without doing it for them," he said. "I am going to recommend that we continue this effort and work at the lower level in training the support personnel, and also set up a program where the doctors can come to the [forward operating base] and do elective surgeries here so they can have access to equipment and continue to share their knowledge with us."

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson serves with the 41st Fires Brigade.)

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