Iraq - Hope for Life

The security situation in Iraqi Basra remains unstable, yet, day after day, the 7th Field Hospital provides medical treatment for dozens of Iraqi citizens.

Joint Forces of ACR

Every morning crowds of people line up outside the entrance gate full of hope, in many cases in hope for life, to be eventually materialised by Czech doctors and nurses. “We have come across sad cases of untreated chronic diseases and a variety of injuries,” says Lieutenant Colonel Miloš Bohoněk, MD, who is the only paediatrician in the 7th Field Hospital of the Czech military. “There is no system of preventive care here, nor a systematic card-index. I knew of some of the diseases only from books, in Europe and at home we never come across them in our surgeries.”

Twice a week, every Tuesday and Saturday, long lines of parents with children of all ages stand waiting outside the outpatients’ section for children. “We have treated at least six hundred children, on the average thirty a day,” Dr Bohonek gives precise statistical data. He has helped making the diagnoses of the boys and girls who were sent to the Czech Republic for operations as part of the programme of humanitarian evacuation of citizens of Iraq suffering health problems (MEDEVAC). This programme of humanitarian aid was approved by the Czech Government in July, and the sum of seven million Czech crowns was allocated for it. Implementation is shared by the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defence and a number of other bodies and institutions. Priority is given to children for whom specialist medical care cannot be provided under the conditions of the 7th Field Hospital. In the first place they are patients in need of operations of the eye, heart or suffering the consequences of having been hit by gunfire.

Ten-year old Thulfakar Mohamed, twoyear old Sadzhan Adnan and three-year old Imana Chodur, who are being treated in the Czech Republic, were torn out of death’s embrace at the very last moment when they were included in the MEDEVAC programme. “They are all cardiological problems, various congenital heart defects, which cannot be cured under Iraqi conditions,” Lieutenant Colonel Vladimír Škranka, MD, told us over the phone. For him work under the conditions of the 7th Field Hospital is nothing out of the usual. In past years he worked in missions in Albania, contributed to treating the injured after the earthquake in Turkey, and he spent six months of last year at the base close to Kabul in Afghanistan.

“All the children attended the Paediatric Centre, and when there was a suspicion of a heart defect, they sent them to me for echo-cardiological examination,” Doctor Škranka explained the system of medical care at the field hospital. Though they do not have at their disposal in Basra all the required instruments, he managed to make the correct diagnosis every time. During his years of practical experience he has examined more than fifteen thousand patients, and, as he says himself, “illness can be correctly determined even under field conditions”. Inreaching the final verdict, inclusion in the treatment programme, the Czech military doctors collaborated with Doctor Tomek of the Faculty Hospital in Prague-Motol, who carried out the necessary pre-operation examination and gave a confirmation of the diagnosis directly in Iraqi Basra.

The two Czech doctors confirmed that there are dozens of similar patients who would need care in specialized medical establishments. “We know of cases,” Doctor Škranka says in depicting the seriousness of the situation regarding the provision of medical care in Iraq, “where it will almost certainly be too late if some of the people are not given a specialist treatment within six months, or possibly a year. We hope that it will become possible to find funds for treatment for these adult patients and that they can be sent to specialist hospitals in the Czech Republic.”

Story by Jan Procházka, Czech Armed Forces Today, 3/2003

First published: October 22, 2003

Pictures taken by LTC Vladimír Marek