By Sgt. Robert Yde
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
BAGHDAD – Health care in Iraq took a major step forward with the recent completion of the new cardiac care unit (CCU) at the Ibn Al Batar Hospital, located in the Karkh District of Baghdad.
The renovation of the cardiac care unit is part of the ongoing efforts of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division to restore and improve the hospital, which has undergone several renovations due to damage it has received since 2003.
"The new cardiac care unit is an intensive care unit where patients who either just had catheterization or are worried they're having a heart attack or are in need of some kind of intensive care can go and get continuously monitored and cared for if anything happens," explained the brigade's surgeon, Lt. Col. Margret Merino. "It provides special cardiac heart services for the entire Baghdad area, and that includes cardiac catheterizations (part of testing for heart problems), open heart surgeries and pediatric congenital heart defect surgeries."
The most important feature of the new CCU is its centralized cardiac monitoring system said Merino, who is originally from Buffalo, N.Y.
"One of the major things for this unit is that it has centralized cardiac monitors, which means that all the beds are hooked up to monitors, and all those monitors are watched constantly at the nurses' station, which is in the middle," she said.
"It basically just provides them state-of-the-art cardiac care and allows them to offer very modern types of procedures," she added.
Work on the Ibn Al Batar Hospital began with the reconstruction of the building that houses the CCU by the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) during its deployment, and the project was taken over by the "Black Jack Brigade" when it arrived in Baghdad last year.
The addition of the centralized monitoring equipment was the last step in the completion of the CCU, which according to Staff Sgt. Robert Thompson is the first phase of a larger, three-phase project.
The second and third phases, which include the reconstruction of buildings within the hospital complex that will serve as training areas and specialized care units, are being addressed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, explained Thompson, a native of San Diego with Company B, 97th Civil Affairs Battalion.
Since being damaged during the initial bombing campaign of Baghdad in 2003, Ibn Al Batar has suffered numerous setbacks, but Thompson said the hospital's administrator, Dr. Hussein Ali Hilli has continued to work with coalition forces and Iraq's Ministry of Health to repair and improve the hospital.
"He's totally dedicated to the facility. This is the third time he's had to go through building the hospital," Thompson said of Hilli.
Merino said that Hilli's dedication to rebuilding his hospital and maintaining a well trained staff has made the brigade's and the hospital's partnership very productive.
"Dr. Hussein been shown to be a very dedicated physician and a very good hospital administrator; so it's an easy hospital to support because he puts everything together," she said. "One of the reasons that he's been very successful there is that he's able to take care of his staff. He provides them a place to live, food and stuff like that. So he has a very highly qualified staff. It's one of the best hospitals that we've seen in the Karkh area."
It is not only the residents of Karkh or even Baghdad that will benefit from the new cardiac services that the hospital can now provide. People from throughout Iraq will be able to take advantage of the facility's unique services, and according to Merino, even though the CCU has just started seeing patients, it's already at capacity and has a long waiting list for others hoping receive treatment.
"It's one of the few, if not the only cardiac center, in Iraq that provides everything – all types of cardiac care," Merino explained. "So they not only get patients from Karkh, but they get patients from all over the greater Baghdad area and Iraq. Some hospitals might do open heart surgeries or they might do catheterizations, but this one specifically does all the cardiac services."
Through international partnerships developed by Hilli, the hospital is also taking steps to continue to build upon the services it can provide.
Merino said that some of the children in the hospital have been diagnosed with congenital heart disease, which requires a very specialized and complex type of surgery that Ibn Al Batar cannot always accommodate.
"They have a training program that's just starting right now where some of his physicians are going to fly to another country to get training especially for this type of cardiac surgery, and then his hospital will be able to do that kind of surgery," Merino said.
Hilli has also developed a cooperative medical partnership through the International Organization of Migration, which allows small children that his facility cannot treat to be moved to and treated by hospitals in Jordan and India.
"Basically, if you want to see what's right, what you look for in a health care facility, this is the example," Thompson said of Ibn Al Batar. "Once everything is complete, they'll able to show their own ministry what right looks like and what efforts have been accomplished, and it will become a model for the ministry itself to mirror for other facilities."
This work, Hospital opens new cardiac care unit in Baghdad's Karkh District, by SGT Robert Yde, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.