By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 5, 2009 - Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq officials are working to create a unified, sustainable medical service in Iraq, a senior medical advisor there said. "[We are] trying to create a unity of medical effort between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health within the government of Iraq," Army Col. (Dr.) Bernard L. DeKoning, advisor to Iraq's defense and interior ministries, told bloggers and online journalists during an Aug. 3 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.
"We are seeing some very positive results in terms of trying to foster a unity of effort amongst all three," he said.
DeKoning noted that training efforts remain a priority. The Health Ministry, for instance, has created training opportunities within its civilian hospitals.
"It's in those civilian hospitals that the doctors from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior receive their post-graduate training, and the Ministry of Health has been very accommodating with allowing physicians from the Ministry of Defense and Interior to work in those facilities," DeKoning said.
In turn, the Defense Ministry has invited the Ministry of Interior to participate in military-specific medical training, he said.
"The Ministry of Defense has a medical institute that has opened up slots for the Ministry of Interior students to fill," he said.
DeKoning said he and his staff also are working to expand Iraqis' first-responder capacity through the use of combat medics and lifesavers and is helping to expand the number of health care personnel within both ministries.
"One of the principal concerns with the Ministry of Defense, and the Interior, as well as the Ministry of Health, is the shortage of health care personnel, and that is probably the biggest hurdle," he said.
The command is working with the ministries of Defense and Interior to find potential recruits, DeKoning said.
"We are working with both ministries in a recruiting and retention program to recruit medical school graduates, as well as trying to attract physicians from other sectors," he said. "The Ministry of Health is doing the same, and we are all working towards the same goal, which is to create a sustainable medical service in each of our particular directorates," he said.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)