Hospitals Come Under Siege
By Dahr Jamail and Harb Al-Mukhtar
RAMADI, Nov 29 (IPS) - Hospital personnel are reporting regular raids
and interference by the U.S. military as fighting continues in the
volatile Al-Anbar province of Iraq.*
The U.S. raids come as the hospitals face increasing lack of vital
supplies and equipment.
Two hospitals in Ramadi, about 110 km west of capital Baghdad on the
Euphrates river, are being raided regularly by the U.S. military,
"The maternity hospital and the general hospital in our city are the two
biggest hospitals," the official said. "These have both been raided
twice a week by the American forces with the excuse that they are
searching for militants. They (the U.S. soldiers) break every door which
is closed, play with our records and sometimes even detain some of our
staff. The Americans are not adhering to any laws."
Other doctors spoke of the lack of adequate equipment and infrastructure.
Dr. Abdul Qader who works at Ramadi General Hospital told IPS that the
critical care unit there lacked monitors, the CT scan was broken, and
many other instruments were not working. Such problems are now common
around the province, both doctors said.
"In addition to lacking electricity, we often lack fuel deliveries for
our generators," said Dr. Qader. "Our machines often break down, which
puts our patients in very critical situations."
Similar problems have been evident in Baghdad since last year. "We had a
power outage while someone was undergoing surgery in the operating
room," Ahlan Bar, manager of nurses at the Yarmouk Teaching Hospital in
Baghdad told IPS. "He died on the table because we had no power for our
The health official said ongoing attacks by militants could provoke U.S.
forces to detain more doctors. "We have only 40 percent of staff we need
to operate effectively," he said. "Even now, we don't have a specialist
in anaesthesia, so this is being handled by the nursing staff. Most
medical staff now are too afraid to work in our province."
The doctors expressed frustration at the U.S.-imposed curfew which
begins at 7 pm daily. Health services at Ramadi General Hospital end at
5 pm so that medical staff can be home before the curfew begins.
The Fourth Geneva Convention lays down specific provisions on delivery
of healthcare services.. "The occupying power has the duty of ensuring
the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in
particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other
articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate,"
Article 55 states.
Article 56 says: "The occupying power has the duty of ensuring and
maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the
medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and
hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the
adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures
necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.
Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their
But the U.S. forces continue to target hospitals regardless. Dr. Qasim,
who had come from al-Qa'im hospital to the Ramadi General Hospital to
obtain medical supplies told IPS that the main hospital in al-Qa'im was
targeted by occupation forces Nov. 7.
"On that day 40 percent of our hospital was wrecked and the doctors'
residency was completely smashed," he said. "Then on the next day they
continued with the other 60 percent of the hospital, including the
emergency room and staff residency."
The doctor said patients were transferred to nearby Obeidy Hospital in
the two functioning ambulances, and in civilian cars.
"Even our ambulances were targeted by the soldiers," said Dr. Qasim.
"And in Obeidy City the hospital was under siege, and for three weeks we
worked there without medical appliances or proper facilities."
The health official said he had only 10 ambulances at his disposal, and
he needed approval from American forces to use them.
"Even when we obtained permission from the Americans, we have had four
out of 10 ambulance missions attacked. Recently in Khaldiya (near
Fallujah) an injured man inside one of them was detained along with two
of our doctors." The health official said he had pleaded with American
soldiers many times for assistance. "They accused me of aiding
terrorists," he said.. "But I told them I have nothing to do with the
security situation, and that I deal with injured persons because I have
sworn to deal with the injured. We are two million persons living in a
(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
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