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Arab Health marks first official overseas mission for Iraqi healthcare professionals in 37 years

United Arab Emirates: Tuesday, January 20 - 2004 @ 11:13

Addressing a gathering of UK and US exhibitors at Arab Health – the Middle East’s leading hospital, medical equipment and services exhibition and conference under way at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, Dr. Talibi said currently within Iraq there were 240 public hospitals, 1,200 primary health centres and 70 private hospitals.

He told delegates that there were 124,000 personnel now working for the Iraq Ministry of Health, 29,000 hospital beds were available and the Ministry employed some 29,000 physicians and 35,000 nurses. “There is,” he said, “no public health crisis in Iraq.”

Dr. Talibi said the visit of an Iraqi delegation of medical professionals to Arab Health was the first official overseas mission of the country’s healthcare representatives in 37 years.

The Iraqi delegation is visiting Arab Health at the invitation of the UK and US governments, supported by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, and IIR Exhibitions, which organises Arab Health.

Dr. Talibi said various areas of Iraq’s healthcare system were now being considered for privatisation. These, he said, include: Department of Logistics; pharmaceuticals, supplies and equipment importation; warehousing and distribution; medical maintenance, vehicle management as well as state-owned or controlled pharmaceuticals companies.

He told delegates that pre-1980, Iraq was a regional leader in health but that during the 1980s and 1990s the system suffered from corruption, cronyism and technological stagnation. Further, said Dr. Talibi, the system was worsened by three wars and the misuse of sanctions.

He detailed how in 2002, Iraq’s healthcare budget was US $16 million for 25 million people – a 90% reduction from a decade earlier. Infant mortality in 2002 stood at 108 per 1,000 and child mortality was 131 per 1,000.

Operational budgets for July to December last year, he said was US $210 million and for 2004 was more than quadrupled to US $947 million. In addition, said Dr. Talibi, the system was awaiting approval of US $850 million supplementary spending from the US of US $493 million for the refurbishment of clinics, hospitals and primary care facilities, US $300 million for repair and procurement of medical equipment, US $7 million for a partners in healthcare programme and US $50 million for additional items.

While the future mission of the Iraqi healthcare system was to stabilise basic healthcare services, to design and implement a comprehensive health care system that is financially sound, assure quality care, is accessible, affordable and available to all, certain immediate fixes had been undertaken.

Among the emergency work, said Dr. Talibi, was US $40 million spent on 128 generators, with 26,000 tons of pharmaceuticals and supplies being delivered since late May last year. The country’s public health system, he said, was focusing on providing clean water, nutrition and disease surveillance. A monthly national immunization day has been started and basic services have been restored to the central public health laboratory.

In addition, said the Department of Logistics chief, surveys had been conducted of facility refurbishments and medical equipment and repairs had been made where necessary. An ‘Adopt A Hospital’ programme had also been developed for international assistance.

The Iraqi delegation has been in high demand at Arab Health, which runs until tomorrow (January 21) evening.

“As the reconstruction of Iraq continues we can expect the country to regain its standing as a leading provider of healthcare in the region,” said John Hassett, Exhibitions Director of IIR’s Healthcare Division. “We anticipate the country’s professionals will play an increasing role in Arab Health.”

Meanwhile, at Arab Health, which features 1,600 exhibitors from 50 countries and 25 national pavilions, the international healthcare giant the Hartmann Group, which supplies medical and hygiene products, has announced the launch of a regional office in Dubai.

At the show, Dr. Ulrich Hemel, the company’s CEO, said: “The foundation of a branch in Dubai marks a further step in the international expansion plan of the Hartmann Group. We regard our direct presence here as a contribution to economic development in Africa and the Middle East.”

Hartmann also hopes to operate in the emerging Iraqi market in the near future, he added.

The newly founded subsidiary Paul Hartmann Middle East FZE will be located at the Dubai Airport Free Zone.

Arab Health is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of Finance and Industry and President, Department of Health and Medical Services. The leading sponsor of the event is Dubai Healthcare City – one of the world’s most innovative healthcare projects.

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Tuesday, January 20- 2004 @ 11:13 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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