CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq --
Iraqi and Coalition doctors and healthcare administrators met here, Oct. 26, as part of the first Physicians’ Healthcare Conference to discuss issues facing the combined Iraqi-Coalition medical network in Anbar Province.
“The purpose of this meeting is to serve as a meet and greet between civilian physicians in Fallujah and Ramadi and their military counterparts,” said Navy Cmdr. Edwin Taylor, medical officer for Regimental Combat Team 6. “This is all a part of the transition (to Iraqi control).”
Approximately 15 Iraqi medical professionals came to the meeting, including the director of medicine for Anbar Province, the director of Fallujah General Hospital and numerous doctors of varying specialties such as neurology and orthopedics.
“The healthcare system in Anbar Province is just as robust as ours (in Iraq), and improved communication between physicians will help us improve patient care from the point of injury,” Taylor said.
The problems they addressed at the conference was how to best manage patient flow, or the movement of injured Iraqis between healthcare establishments that may have incomplete, but complementary, facilities. For example, a clinic in Fallujah may have a doctor on hand that is an expert at treating traumatic injuries, such as blast wounds or gunshots. However, for heart attacks a patient will need to be sent to Fallujah or Ramadi General Hospital.
At issue, said Taylor, is communication between facilities. Improved communication means that same clinic can notify Fallujah General they have a patient inbound, instead of that patient simply showing up via ambulance or private automobile.
“Communication, patient safety and patient movement are the bottom lines today,” said Taylor.
Ammar Chayed, an internist at Fallujah General, said improving and developing health services in Fallujah is one of the most pressing issues for the medical establishment in Anbar. Chayed said his dreams for the seven primary healthcare centers in Fallujah are relatively modest.
“We dream for our healthcare system to be like the United States, but we want to develop like Bahrain and (United Arab Emirates),” he said. “But if we develop a system exactly like Bahrain or the U.A.E., it will fail. We must develop a healthcare system that works for Anbar Province.”
Chayed also said another problem facing his system is attracting and retaining doctors. He hopes the new, modern and well-equipped hospital currently being built in Fallujah will attract the type of personnel they need.
“(Staffing) is a big problem. Many of our doctors left Anbar because of (the) security situation,” said Chayed.
Much has been accomplished in terms of security already. Simply the fact that this conference could take place marked the significant turnaround Anbar Province has experienced since spring, said Taylor.
Navy Cmdr. Dan Cornwell, a medical service administrator with a provincial reconstruction team here, said the long-term plan is twofold.
“Our plan is to have regularly scheduled meetings to both communicate and share experiences, as well as sharing concerns we can deal with as a team,” he said.
The hope among these doctors and administrators is that the advances in security will parlay into an improved experience for sick and wounded Iraqis. The consistent message from the American military doctors gathered here was one of admiration for their Iraqi counterparts for the courage they have demonstrated by enduring a war at their doorsteps to help their fellow countrymen.
“We’ve been visiting with you for four to five years now,” Cornwell told the Iraqis in attendance. “Your bravery and courage are cornerstones for others to emulate. You are making a difference.”