FALLUJAH, Iraq --
Fallujah physicians and Coalition Force service members celebrated the grand opening of the first of four primary health clinics scheduled to open here, Dec. 11.
Iraqi and Coalition Force medical professionals worked side by side participating in a free public health screening, serving Fallujah citizens from the Nazaal district, to introduce the newly built Nazaal Health Center. The center will provide primary healthcare through outpatient treatment to approximately 60,000 people.
Public health drives, such as this one, are coordinated with the grand openings of the new clinics to assist in informing locals the clinics are open for their preventative healthcare needs and allows the people to view the facility, meet their doctors and see that the medical staff has returned to work.
“We want the community to realize that this is a very good clinic that they can take advantage of,” said Navy Cmdr. Edmond Taylor, the Regimental Combat Team 6 surgeon. “We want the people to understand that they can come here not only when they’re sick, but they can come here for immunizations or just a check up.”
Patients were primarily screened by Iraqi doctors, while medical staff with Combat Logistic Battalion 8, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, Navy Surface Warfare and RCT-6 was on site to provide assistance for the event.
“The focus is on Iraqi physicians caring for Iraqi people,” said Navy Cmdr. Dan Cornwell, a medical service corps senior officer with the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Cornwell has been working with the Iraqi health public system in assisting the city’s hospitals and clinics with getting back online to providing care for the Iraqi community of Fallujah. Together, Cornwell and Taylor formed the Fallujah Health Care Council made up of the senior officials of Fallujah General Hospital, the main medical facility of the city.
“I’ve been here eight months and dealing with the health care staff has been remarkable,” said Cornwell. “These folks are doing so much with so little. It’s really amazing, the pressures that they work under and working in the conditions that they do. They’re wonderful providers and physicians. They work very hard and they’re busy.”
Cornwell commented that Fallujah General Hospital is one of the busiest medical centers he’s seen. He said it has become overwhelmed with outpatient clinic issues, seeing 800 to 1,000 patients a day causing a great strain on the staff and facility, justifying the need for the new clinics, which will ultimately relieve pressure off the hospital.
“The state of public health in Fallujah is very robust,” said Taylor. “I’m very impressed considering the turmoil the city has been through that they’ve managed to maintain their healthcare system.”
Construction of the state-of-the-art facilities was supported by Coalition Force funds and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The new facilities will provide the medical staff with a newer and cleaner environment to work in that include: new trauma, labor, X-ray sections and a pharmacy.
“We helped them refocus on certain areas along with providing them opportunities to better their surroundings,” said Taylor. “We’re not trying to create an American healthcare system here. This is not what this is about. This is an Iraqi healthcare system for Iraqis created by Iraqi people. We’re only here to facilitate and encourage them.”
Taylor went on to say that along with the vested interest the Iraqi doctors have in the city, they’re here for the children and people of Fallujah and committed by their love of being a physician. A trait Taylor admitted he admired.
“These doctors here can make 10 times the amount of money in another country,” said Taylor. “Those that are here are here because they want to be.”
Doctors said most of the patients they saw during the day suffered from seasonal upper respiratory infections. The clinic anticipated screening 500 people throughout the day, but were surprised that twice that amount were seen.
Service members handed out gifts to the children after they had been screened by a physician. Toys, candy, T-shirts, school supplies and vitamins were all collected and donated for the event by various U.S. medical centers.
Dr. Zaid Awad, the clinic manger, ended the event with saying, “I would like to thank all the people that made this true. We hope that we can stand on our feet to make progress and get better health treatment for this country.”