Public Health and Healthcare in Camp Liberty Baghdad – Iraq
Legal and medical Aspects of current health care blockade on Camp Liberty residents who are all designated as People of Concern by UNHCR and protected person under 4th Geneva Convention:
1. Public health standards for these residents were at highest attainable quality of healthcare offered in Iraq before 2009. The camp residents used to enjoy free access to medical services and facilities and they managed a private hospital of their own inside their former camp (Camp Ashraf), self-contained and fully equipped with spiral CT-Scan, ultra-sound, laparoscopy, ophthalmic laser, radiology, orthopedic surgery, neuro-surgery, lumbar surgery, eye surgery and eye microscope, etc.
2. In 2009 an all-out logistical and medical blockade of the camp was initiated by Iraqi Army forces (IAF) under the command of previous PM of Iraq Nouri-Al-Maleki who acted at behest of the Iranian dictators.
3. In 2011 the residents were evicted from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty and Government of Iraq (here after: GoI) blocked the transfer of all of the resident’s medical resources (equipment and supplies) to Camp Liberty.
4. Currently residents’ doctors have no resources and capabilities to diagnose and treat or conduct surgery inside the Camp.
5. Current level of healthcare offered to the residents at the new camp is a sub-standard trivial primary care in a tiny Iraqi infirmary .
6. In this infirmary only a general practitioner (GP) daily diagnoses the patients. There is not enough medicine. There is no emergency medicine and facilities and GP’s job is to refer the patients outside the camp. He only issues referral papers to incoming patients.
7. But in defiance to UNHCR call on GoI, there is no freedom of movement for no one even the patients outside the camp.
8. The camp is controlled by the Iraqi forces affiliated to the Iraqi Army Intelligence. After patients receive the referral papers, the Iraqi forces control who goes to hospital or not or at what time he or she is permitted to exit the camp. Since the camp in under monitor by the UN monitors, in order to enforce this arbitrary blockade and simultaneously deceive the monitors the Iraqi agents employ three methods:
a. Officially GoI claims 4 to 5 patients can exit the camp to visit specialists at out-patient ward of the hospitals! (Setting quota itself is a violation of the right of access) but every day the guards at the gate delay the departure of the patients for long hours. As a result the patients reach the destination hospital after the business hours when the outpatient ward is already closed or is about to close. Consequently they return without being visited by the specialist or performing their Para-clinical examinations.
b. The second method is the omission of the patients’ interpreters. After all the impediments at the camp’s checkpoint if four patients arrive the outpatient-ward with the little time left then they face another obstacle since they only have one or two accompanied interpreters to translate for all with no ample time available. Subsequently 2 out of 4 patients generally return without having the chance to speak with their doctor.
c. The third method is limiting the number of hospitals to one for a group departure. Therefore if one patient is going to a hospital for chemotherapy and another patient has a corneal graft at an eye hospital one should sacrifice his\her appointment for the sake of the other.
9. When a patient misses an appointment at secondary or tertiary care normally it will be postponed for minimum of 2 months period, depending on the specialty.
10. In this regard: World Medical Association issued a press release expressing concern on the worrying health condition at the camp.
11. The outcome of this Medical Blockade, taking into account the span of almost 6 years, can be outlined into following facts and figures:
a. 23 patients died due to lack of free access to vital medical services.
b. Prevention of access by AIF has currently piled up a total number of 907 patients who already have received official referral forms from the GP at the Iraqi clinic inside the camp for an appointment with a specialist in Baghdad hospitals. With the current rate of daily exits, it will take us about two years to accomplish only the current 907 not taking into account future referrals or the follow-up appointments..
c. GoI has blocked the entrance of pesticides, bactericides and chemical disinfectants this also has added to Camp’s public health deficiencies. An Unsanitary environment with no sewage disposal facilities, unhealthy sub-standard residential area full of a total number of 907 patients with referrals are piled up behind the gates different types of insects that are carriers of multiple illnesses.
12. Solution and Demands:
a. Residents entitle the right to transfer their own medical supplies and equipment from their former Camp Ashraf specially their para-clinical equipment: spiral CT-Scan, ultra-sound, laparoscopy, ophthalmic laser and radiology units.
b. Current petrol blockade of the camp that has lasted for two months and has limited primary care services to the patients on their commuting and transportation should be lifted.
c. Patients should be allowed to choose their own care-takers, nurse and interpreter to accompany them.
d. Patients should be allowed to choose their own hospital for diagnosis and treatment and no interference and hindrance in this respect is permissible by Iraqi Army Forces.
e. There should not be any quota’s set for the number of patients who can leave for appointments daily and residents should be allowed to invite specialists to visit the camp and the patients.