Local doctor helps Iraq medical system

July 15, 2008 7:41:39 PM PDT
Having access to emergency medical care is vital for any patient, and war-torn Iraq is in urgent need of this type of care. One Stanford doctor returned from Iraq where he and other in the medical professionals were helping train staff.

Iraq is a country dominated by chaos. When a person's life is at stake, there is no 911 system, no paramedics and very few ambulances.

"People who are injured or seriously ill in Iraq are basically delivered by taxi cab or a private vehicle to the casualty collecting area," said Stanford University professor Dr. Robert Norris.

Dr. Norris is an associate professor of emergency medicine at Stanford. He and three other American doctors flew to northern Iraq to assess that country's medical system and begin training staff.

"Surgeons, internal medicine, pediatricians, OB/GYN all those specialties will have to be involved," said Dr. Norris.

They were sponsored by the International Medical Coalition. Dr. Norris spent nearly two weeks in Iraq where he says people die while waiting for care or en route to a hospital.

"One of the major casualty collecting units was seeing 1,000 patients a day, compared with the Stanford emergency department which is a busy emergency department and we see about 120-150 a day," said Dr. Norris.

It wasn't always this bad. Twenty-five years ago, Iraq had a stellar health system. But under Saddam, the country became isolated from the rest of the world.

"It was cut off from western medicine from modern advances in medicine. So they fell behind both in the teaching, the technology and the equipment," said Dr. Norris.

Now that they have a better idea of what Iraq needs, Dr. Norris and his colleagues will return to Baghdad in December, to set up an official emergency medical training program.


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