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Kurdish hospitals buckle under refugee pressure, health ministry

By Rudaw 6/4/2017
Erbil Rizgari Hospital. Photo: Rudaw video
Erbil Rizgari Hospital. Photo: Rudaw video

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— Nearly 70 percent of the patients visiting Erbil’s state hospitals are people fleeing from conflict zones in northern and southern parts of Iraq, according to local officials who warn that the demand for hospital services has peaked because of a lack of beds and the overburdened health care system. 

According to the latest figures from the Kurdish Ministry of Migration, nearly 1.6 million displaced people (IDP) are still in Kurdistan Region of which some 80 percent are in rented houses inside the cities while the other 20 percent are in dire conditions in overcrowded refugees camps. 

“There was no room today in the intensive care section to offer local patients because of the pressure from IDPs and refugees who of course desperately need urgent treatments,” said Shaxawan Dizayee, manager of the Rizgari state hospital in Erbil. 

Dizayee said many of the patients seek services at expensive private clinics because of long waiting hours and lack of medical personal in state hospitals. 

The pressure on the medical facilities in Erbil is especially large as many IDPs have chosen to live in Erbil province.

Health care officials say around half of their annual budget is spent on providing medical services for refugees who are often more vulnerable to seasonal diseases and epidemics. 

“The ministry has a 1 billion dinar (ca $80 million) budget for public medical services, of which some 50 percent goes to services offered to IDPs,” Khalis Qadir at the Health Ministry told Rudaw. 

Khalis also added that the Iraqi government had reduced the overall share of Kurdistan Region of medical supplies and subsidies which he said had led to deepen the crisis. 

Kurdish officials warned last month that Baghdad’s intention to withhold supplies of medicine to the Kurdistan Region will likely create an immediate crisis in pharmaceutical markets in Kurdistan amidst an ongoing influx of refugees to the region. 

“We don’t have the money to visit private hospitals,” said Shahab Hussein, an Iraqi refugee in Erbil. “This hospital (Rizgari) has relatively good services and do not discriminate,” he added.  

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