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Marines restock Ar Ramadi hospital with donated medical supplies

14 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

The Ar Ramadi General Hospital has X-ray machines but no film.

That's just one of the many problems plaguing the doctors working here.

To better equip the city's primary medical facility, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment recently donated nearly $50,000 worth of basic medical supplies to the hospital.

"During Saddam Hussein's time, the hospital was ignored," said Iraqi Dr. Qussai Najem Abdulla.  "We never received any money for medicine or equipment."

Since the fall of Hussein's regimen, Abdulla has been working overtime trying to stock his hospital with modern medical equipment and more medicines. He said he's worked through every channel he could find.

"This is one of the biggest hospitals in Iraq. Right now, we don't have enough stuff to help all the people or Ramadi," he explained.

Abdulla has been working with representatives from 2nd Battalion's medical and civil affairs sections for the past three months.

Navy Lt. Kenneth Y. Son, battalion surgeon, discussed the needs of the hospital with Abdulla.

"At first, they were surprised to see the American military," explained Son of his first visit to the hospital. "They were pretty skeptical of us."

Through constant visits, Son and Abdulla came up with a list of items most needed at the hospital. Then Son found a vendor in the Baghdad area who could accommodate the
request in a timely and cost-effective manner.

"These are just the basic medical supplies a hospital needs to function," added Son, from Los Angeles. "The doctors here have had to finagle to get supplies on their own. They've even had to bypass the Iraqi Ministry of Health because it takes forever to get any help from them."

The doctors at the hospital see more than 16,000 people per month. Ramadi is home to 400,000 citizens.

"The hospital just doesn't have enough supplies and medicines to treat all the people who come in," Abdulla explained. "Sometimes they come in and we have to send them away without the proper treatment."

According to Son, the hospital's lack of gear has sparked an illegal and dangerous business.

"Wannabe doctors" in the city set up "modameds," which claim to provide patients with a wide range of medical care.

"They're usually just in someone's garage," Son said. "People go there and get all sorts of stuff done. These people get surgeries and medicines that they probably don't need."

Modamed owners steal their equipment and medicines from manufacturers or vendors, which hurts the legitimate medical facilities throughout Iraq.

"Ramadi's hospital usually only receives about ten percent of the medicines that it's supposed to get," Son said. "People steal the supplies and sell them on the black market."

That's why this donation meant so much to Abdulla and the other doctors at the hospital.

"This is very important to us," he said. "I have to thank the Marines for their help because it's going to help me take care of my people."

But the hospital wasn't the only place that benefited from the donation.

Several boxes of books and various training aids were given to the Al Anbar Medical College here. Many of the items came straight from Son's personal collection.

"The medical college has very few books. The ones they do have are very outdated from the seventies and eighties," Son said. "The instructors have to photocopy pages to give to students just so they can complete the required readings."

The dean of the college, Dr. Salah Al Anii, was on hand to receive the gear.

"We're not really sure what to do with everything right now," he said while going through the boxes. "Everything is very useful. We definitely need stuff like this."

Son said he was glad to help.

"Every time we come out in town, we risk our lives," Son explained. "But I think helping others gives the Marines and sailors of the battalion motivation to go. We'll do everything to help the Iraqis help themselves because then we've completed half of our mission here."