Story by Spc. Mike Alberts
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
KIRKUK, Iraq – Medical and Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team traveled to Kirkuk's only pediatric hospital to conduct an institutional assessment Jan. 16.
The pediatric hospital compound contains several interconnected, single-story structures and is located in the northwest section of the city of Kirkuk. Fourteen attending physicians work in the 120 bed facility which is typically filled to capacity according to Shawar Ali, pediatrician and director of technical affairs for the Department of Health in the Kirkuk Province.
Ali walked his coalition force guests through operating and birthing rooms, highlighting the 28 incubators for premature children, 17 of which are new with ultraviolet lights. In addition, the hospital has two x-ray machines, one of which is new, and a post-operative room with a six bed capacity. Recently, the facility upgraded its electrical system and it has excellent clean water and sewage systems.
According to Lt. Daniel Grajeda, naval environmental health officer, the purpose of the day's visit was for medical and PRT representatives to observe first hand the quality of the facility, to speak with its physicians and to assess the hospital's needs to determine whether coalition forces could help. Grajeda is attached to the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade and works with the PRT's health and education sections. The PRT's primary mission is to assist and facilitate the Iraqi government in becoming self-sustaining which includes its medical infrastructure.
"Their level of care is very good and by all accounts the facility is very good," said Grajeda. "They can do much more here for children that some of the other hospitals I have visited while [in Iraq]. They have labs, neonatal intensive care units and can clearly handle most surgeries," he continued. "Basically, almost anything a child needs in terms of medical care can be provided there."
Capt. Christopher Curtis is 3rd Brigade's surgeon. Curtis was equally impressed with the capabilities of the hospital and its staff.
"The standard of care is very high, and they manage to keep the hospital very clean which is challenging in this [dusty] environment," said Curtis. "Of course, the lack of equipment does decrease the level of care that could be provided. For instance, they do not have a pediatric intensive care unit because they only have one pediatric ventilator in the entire city. Also, there is just one available pediatric surgeon for this entire province."
The hospital also lacked a centralized oxygen system and was short on certain medications and other typical supplies due to the security challenges of getting equipment and supplies from Baghdad.
"But I would add that the knowledge base and capabilities of the physicians are excellent," emphasized Curtis. "There's a perception in the Iraqi community that American doctors are better which is not fair to Iraqi doctors. Our visits to hospitals hopefully help [to debunk] that perception. They are on par with us."
This work, Kirkuk's pediatric hospital is model for quality medical care in Iraq, by SGT Michael Alberts, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.