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Facing Chaos, Iraqi Doctors Are Quitting
(Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, 30 May 2005)
Baghdad - The letter came to this city's main cardiac hospital late last month. It was unsigned and handwritten, but its message was clear: It threatened the hospital's top doctors and warned them to leave their jobs immediately. . . . No one knows who sent the letter, but the relentless violence here is often baffling. Four of the hospital's top surgeons stopped going to work. So did six senior cardiologists. Some left the country. . . . It was far from an isolated incident. . . . The director of another hospital, Dr. Abdula Sahab Eunice, was gunned down May 17 on his way to work, officials at the hospital said. . . . In the past year, about 10 percent of Baghdad's total force of 32,000 registered doctors - Sunnis, Shiites and Christians - have left or been driven from work, according to the Iraqi Medical Association, which licenses practitioners. The exodus has accelerated in recent months . . . One 32-year-old doctor at a medium-size Baghdad hospital said doctors now routinely exaggerated the risk of complications, hoping patients would opt against surgery. . . . "We try to avoid complicated operations," said the doctor, afraid enough for his own safety to insist on being identified only by his first name, Omar. "What if the patient dies? You're face to face with relatives with guns." . . . One 60-year-old gynecologist, who was kidnapped last December, said three cars, one of them a police cruiser, pulled her car over. Men banged on her window with guns, forced their way into her car and pushed her head to the floor. They took her and her driver to a house. . . . The men asked for $1 million, handed her a gun and told her to kill the driver. They said they would cut off her hand and send it, with the driver's body, to her son. . . . "I said, 'I cannot kill him,' " she said. "I can't even kill a bird. They started to beat me on the face." . . . The men released her after her family paid $250,000, most of it borrowed. Oddly, an American patrol stopped the car as the men were driving her and her driver home. Seeing her bruised face, they asked if she was all right. Terrified, she replied that she was on her way to the hospital. She made it home; a day later, she left for Jordan. Still terrorized by the incident, she asked that her name be withheld. . . . "I'm healed from outside, but I never heal on the inside," she said. A rarity, she has returned to Iraq - to work at repaying the friends who lent the ransom money. . . . The exodus of senior doctors has resulted in very unpredictable medical service, doctors and hospital officials said. Patients are not sure whether they will find their doctors. Junior doctors fresh out of medical school are performing complicated surgical operations that ordinarily would be done by more experienced doctors. . . . The workload increases for the doctors who remain. Dr. Hashem Zainy, a psychiatrist and the director of a psychiatric hospital, Ibn Rushud, said the doctors who have stayed must see almost double the daily caseload. . . . "It's ridiculous," he said. "They listen to the patient for a few minutes and write out a prescription and that's it." . . . Dr. Kubaisy saw his final patients at his clinic across town from the hospital this month. One patient, Halima Obeidi, a 75-year-old woman with kidney failure, lay on a hospital bed surrounded by worried relatives. They spoke in hushed tones, avoiding the topic of who would care for her once Dr. Kubaisy left. But for him, staying was simply not an option. . . . Perhaps Dr. Alousi, of the Iraqi Medical Association, put it best. "If you get a doctor and you need to be examined," he said, "and there's an AK-47 under the table, things are very bad."
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posted by Lorenzo 9:32 PM
Here are some interesting photos taken in Iraq by a U.S. soldier
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posted by Lorenzo 5:17 PM