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Navy Lt. Richard Ellis, a native of Panama City and the battalion surgeon for Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, speaks with Iraqi medical practitioners about future medical training possibilities at Karmah Hospital. The hospital opened its doors November 15 after years of construction.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarlioti

Doors open at Karmah Hospital

30 Oct 2008 | Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis

Officials in Karmah opened the doors to a new hospital after years of planning and construction, recently.

 A shortage in funding threatened to delay the opening of the Karmah Hospital, but Marines with Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1’s Civil Affairs Group, helped to facilitate final construction efforts.

 Prior to the hospital opening, only a small under-manned, under-equipped clinic served the entire Karmah region’s 40,000 citizens, requiring people to travel to Fallujah for anything beyond basic healthcare.

    “It was just a health clinic before,” said Sgt. Andrew Hodgdon, a 24-year-old operations chief from Houston, with CAG. “Now they have a modern hospital with top of the line equipment.”

 The hospital will facilitate most general services and will include a dental clinic among other specialized service clinics. It will also house three ambulances to expedite medical emergencies

The hospital’s opening marks significant gains for the Karmah region, largely due to profound improvements in security. Citizens here have pulled together to thwart violence and insurgent activity.

 “The level of progress is unbelievable,” Hodgdon said. “Finishing construction would have been impossible without [Karmah’s] help. They earned this hospital, and they definitely deserve it.”

 The people of Karmah were more than enthusiastic to see the completion of a critical piece of infrastructure.

 “It’s an excellent hospital,” said Basim Sami, a doctor’s assistant at the hospital. “It was very important to Karmah, the future of Karmah, to complete this hospital. It gives the people faith, all of us faith, that we are getting better one school, one hospital at a time.”

 Service members said the new hospital should reduce the strain on surrounding hospitals, such as Fallujah General Hospital, where over-crowding has been a problem. 

 “A big key to its importance is giving people in Karmah access to a wide variety of healthcare without the need to travel to other cities,” said Navy Lt. Richard Ellis, the battalion surgeon, from Panama City, Fla., with 1st Bn., 3rd Marines.

Ellis said the more people go to general practitioners before going to see a specialty doctor in cities like Fallujah, the more efficiently the overall medical system runs. 

“For them to have a brand new hospital—it’s a sign things are progressing,” Ellis said.