Diyala desperately needs doctors

A shortage of doctors in Diyala, a volatile province in eastern-central Iraq, has led to nurses having to take on many tasks and procedures for which they are not qualified, according to Diyala’s health department.

“Patients are relying on nurses because there aren’t enough doctors to meet the demand. We know this is not right but what can we do when desperate people search for help or advice and there isn’t a doctor available,” said Adiba Nasuh, a nurse working at Baqubah General Hospital in the provincial capital.

“The least we can do is to offer some of our experience after working closely with doctors for so many years,” Adiba added.

Diyala’s health department said that at least 80 percent of the doctors that used to work in the province have fled because of violence, and those that remain work only when they feel they will be safe.

“We urgently need doctors to attend to the huge number of patients who queue in front of the doors of our hospitals every day. To make matters worse, there is also a shortage of medicines of all kinds, especially those used to treat patients with cardiac problems,” Muhammad Hadi, media officer for Diyala Council’s health department, told IRIN.

Children suffering

“Paediatricians are hard to come by in Diyala and children are the ones who mostly suffer as a result of their shortage. Nurses are trying to help but what they can offer can never be compared to what a specialist can do,” Hadi added.

Police offer Lt Col Abdallah Mustafa Aydan told IRIN that from August to November this year there had been an increase in the number of doctors attacked by militants and insurgents. In reposnse, he said, many doctors have relocated to safer areas, such as Kurdish provinces in the north.

“In August and September, Diyala was a scene of clashes between insurgents and US troops. Many doctors left the province looking for safer areas and didn’t return after the fighting ended,” Hadi said.

Dr Ahmed Feisal Obeid used to work in Baqubah General Hospital and now works as a volunteer with a local NGO in Baghdad, which he prefers not to name for security reasons. He said that after receiving so many death threats he had no option but to leave Diyala. “I know how serious the health problem is in Diyala but my family and I were threatened to be killed there. At least here [in Baghdad] I’m unknown and the possibility of being killed is much less compared to there,” he said.

as/ar/ed