Healing Iraq from within

23 Jan 2008 | Cpl. Billy Hall 1st Marine Division

Transitioning the security of Iraq back into the hands of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police is proving to be a winning campaign. Even with the gradual establishment of stability within the region here, there are still transitions to which the Iraqi people must become accustomed to.

 Healthcare has been a major concern of the populace for some time. Coalition Forces continue to help to make sure Iraqi citizens receive proper medical attention.

 A focus of the military in this period of transitions is to ensure that the Iraqi physicians and medical facilities are supplied and capable of providing for their own.

 Marines and sailors from Company I of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, recently visited the village at the T-1 pumping station in Iraq to assist a medical facility in an atypical fashion.

 “Three to four years ago, coalition forces were going out and actually treating the Iraqis,” said Navy Lt. Joesph B. Borawski, the battalion surgeon for Task Force 3rd Bn., 2nd Marines. “Now the shift is to provide (Iraqi healthcare providers) with tools and counseling, so they can set themselves up for success. It’s helping Iraqis to treat Iraqis.”

 Company I delivered seven crates of various medical supplies, including latex gloves, sterile towels and syringes, that were acquired through a donation program started in the United States. The battalion surgeon was on hand to make sure the Iraqi physician knew the use of each item.

 “We went through all the items and made sure, in fact, that he knew what was given to him,” said Borawski, a native of Copiague, N.Y.

 For the remainder of the day, the battalion surgeon and several Navy corpsmen sat in as the Iraqi physician saw local patients.

 “As we observed and mentored the Iraqi physician through his normal sick call, the Iraqi patients were a little confused as to why I wasn’t treating them,” Borawski said. “We made sure the Iraqi physician was doing all the treating, which he was more than capable of doing. Basically, I was just there to help console him if he had any questions or problems.”

 Medical issues in the region can usually be broken down into two categories.

 “There’s the adult population with a lot of chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes,” said Borawski, an Albany Medical College graduate. “The other condition we see a lot of is with the young children. Either they don’t get healthcare at an early age, or they have other childhood illnesses that we don’t have in the states because we have preventive medicine.”

 The Iraqi physician, with occasional counsel from the Coalition Forces’ medical staff, saw 50 local patients in a three-hour period, with only one patient being between the ages of 18 and 35.

 “The young adult population is relatively healthy in Iraq,” Borawski said. “The ages of one to three and over fifty are the two big population centers where any changes in medicine will be beneficial.”

 Overall, the day’s outcome pleased Company I. Not only were they able to deliver much needed medical supplies, but they were also reassured in the fact that the medical facility was capable of handling the needs of many local citizens.

 “The locals were confused at first, but after a while, they got the understanding that we were there to observe and see how things work,” said Hospitalman 3rd Class Jason C. Phillips, the senior line corpsman for Compay I. “After that it went very smooth. The doctor was in there seeing his patients, giving exams and giving meds.”

 In essence, military medical personnel are working with the Iraqi physicians in the same manner the Military Transition Teams are working with the Iraqi Army and the Police Transition Teams are working with the Iraqi Police.

 “The direct correlation to the medical side is we’ll dedicate our efforts and time, we’ll give (the Iraqi physicians) what donated supplies we can and then (they) can take it from there,” Borawski said. “We’re just here to make sure everything goes smooth.”

1st Marine Division