By Kendal Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 14, 2009 - For engineer Wathiq Abdul Jabbar, the May 9 ribbon-cutting ceremony that capped a $2.4 million renovation of the Alwaiya Maternity hospital here was especially meaningful. "I feel like I helped rebuild my home," he said. "I was born and raised just four kilometers from this hospital, so it is a special place for me."
In 2004, the hospital had a capacity of only 37 beds. Equipment failures and structural damage caused rooms and buildings to remain unused for many years. But that has all changed. The extensive makeover, which Abdul Jabbar described as a "skin off, skin on" renovation, brought the hospital's capability back to 344 beds.
Abdul Jabbar, chairman of The Muhandis Inbbar Group, directed the project and spoke at the ceremony to officially open the hospital.
"I want to thank the American taxpayer for the help and assistance in making this renovation possible," he said.
In his remarks, Abdul Jabbar acknowledged the expertise and support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division in the difficult construction process of a turbulent Baghdad city center. With better security, he said, more projects and improvements in his home area are possible.
Dr. Intisar Hassan al-Tuijari, hospital director, and Dr. Muhammad, a Rusafa-area city councilman, were among the key people who attended the event. Others included Karoly Okolicsanyi, the provincial reconstruction team representative for the U.S. Agency for International Development, hospital staff, Iraqi government officials, representatives from the USACE Gulf Region Central district, and Army Col. Tim McGuire, maneuver area commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
During his remarks, McGuire echoed Abdul Jabbar's comments.
"I congratulate the people of Iraq on the refurbished hospital," he said. "We are honored to be here and celebrate with you. This is a sign of the friendship of the American people with the Iraqi people, and we look forward to a long-term partnership, ensuring a bright future for the children of Iraq."
The Alwaiya complex consists of 10 buildings, and it includes operating rooms and theaters, delivery rooms, patient wards and a section for premature infants. The hospital also has an external clinic, pharmacy, emergency rooms, prenatal health center and nursery. Alwaiya serves more than a million women on the east side of the Tigris River.
The scope of work for repairs and renovations expanded the hospital to a 344-bed facility while maintaining full services throughout the project. Renovation work included the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, boilers, electrical, structural, fire alarms, a nurse call system, a data communication network, a TV system and elevators.
Army Capt. Sean Heenan of Gulf Region Central acknowledged the team that was part of the hospital renovation.
"I was fortunate to be here and see this great project across the finish line," he said. "So many people contributed to the success, but ultimately, the only thing worth remembering is the help this hospital provides the mothers of the Rusafa area of Baghdad."
Abdul Jabbar credited hospital director Tuijari with keeping the hospital going in spite of the challenges.
"She was available day and night," Abdul Jabbar said. "I often had to call her at odd hours, even late at night, and she was very helpful every time."
The officer in charge of GRC's International Zone Resident Office, Army Capt. Chad Wendolek, put the ceremony in perspective.
"A ribbon cutting is just a small expression of the dedication and hard work all the team members from the IZ Resident Office and central district put into this project," he said. "I hope the Iraqi mothers and the children born here, cared for here, are told of the personal sacrifice many U.S. citizens made to help their nation and provide a future for generations to come."
As Iraq strives to build a secure, stable and self-governing nation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division has completed hundreds of projects in the building, health and education sector. GRD projects have increased Iraq's annual capacity to treat patients to about 6.6 million patients in hospitals and 4.6 million outpatients at the primary health care centers. Since 2004, USACE has completed 44 hospital renovation projects throughout Iraq, and currently has eight ongoing.
(Kendal Smith works at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Central district.)