- BASRA - Patients are being
left to suffer in agony due to a critical shortage of key drugs in Basra's
hospitals, where the pay system for doctors has all but collapsed, senior
health officials said on Monday.
- Drugs for cancer, chronic illnesses including hypertension,
and asthma are in short supply while there is even a lack of basic pain
- One medic in the burns unit of Basra General Hospital
said that shortages of pain killers and equipment like gauze meant that
victims who might otherwise be saved, were likely to die.
- "We have no pain medication, no morphine, no way
to treat their wounds," said the doctor who declined to be named.
"Anyone with more than 40% burns on their body will die."
- Medics attended to 13-year-old Abas Hasan, who had suffered
burns in an accident from a previously unexploded mortar, but the doctor
held out little prospect of recovery.
- "He has a major infection and has burns over 50%
of his body. There is nothing we can do."
- Colonel John Graham, the British army's chief medic in
Iraq, said local health officials had identified a lack of drugs as one
of the main problems facing the health care system.
- "The hospitals have supplies of most medicines,
but there are critical shortages in cytotoxic drugs (for cancer) and there
is a shortage of drugs for chronic illnesses," Graham said.
- The dusty climate in Iraq meant that chronic illnesses
such as asthma were particular prevalent, he added.
- Dr Mustafa Khodair, the director of the general hospital,
said many of the drugs needed for chronic illnesses had been stolen from
warehouses during looting which followed Basra's fall to the British two
- "There are no cancer drugs and we cannot treat the
patients without them," he added.
- Graham has been in contact with the directors of all
the city's hospitals to assess needs, with the British now in charge of
the day-to-day administration of Basra.
- 'Medical economy' a new problem
- The lack of quality drinking water remained a problem,
but was being overtaken on the list of priorities by security and salaries
for staff, he said.
- Doctors had supplemented their basic wage through a complex
system of charging for drugs. That has since broken down and many doctors
and nurses were not even receiving basic salaries any more.
- "The medical economy which had been working - charging
for drugs at four different rates - that has now been upset and disrupted."
- Khodair said the basic salaries of doctors often accounted
for no more than three dollars a month.
- "The salaries of doctors is nothing. We do not like
our pay system. It is very, very complicated. We want our services to be
free to the patients if we can," he said.
- Graham acknowledged that the general hospital faced the
most severe problems.
- "The general hospital is of course the largest and
serves the poorest part of the population... (but) is the least modern."
- Nevertheless, he was impressed by the health service's
ability to keep going despite the impact of war and Saddam Hussein's rule.
- "The medical service is the only piece of the civilian
infrastructure that has survived and we need to protect it."