Dozens of Iraqi sheiks in their typical white galabyas and with scarves on their heads were waiting at the gate of the 7th Field Hospital for the arrival of the First Deputy Minister of Defence Miroslav Kostelka, and the Chief of the ACR General Staff Lieutenant General Pavel Štefka.

Field Hospital

7th Field Hospital on Iraqi Zone Stabilisation Force Operation

The 7th Field Hospital Started Operation

“We have not come just formally to open the newly built 7th Field Hospital. We have brought you humanitarian aid from the Czech Republic,” Deputy Minister Kostelka said in the introduction of his speech. “The Czech Republic is very proud to be able to provide aid to the Iraqi people. The field hospital is here for you, and we hope that you will cooperate with us and thus help your people,” the First Deputy stated in addressing the tribal leaders.

The construction of the field hospital in Iraqi Basra was no easy matter for dozens of members of engineering units, for nurses and doctors. The soggy ground on which now the main corridor of the hospital is located, the operating theatres, the anaesthesiology and resuscitation unit and specialised wards, required to move dozens of cubic metres of soil and gravel. “Another problem was to ensure the supply of sufficient quantities of drinking and supply water, of which the hospital in full operation requires as much as 70,000 litres a day,” the Commander of the hospital, Colonel Mojmír Mrva, MD, told the journalists at site. “We managed to come to an agreement about regular supplies with the British Command in Basra, which possesses the necessary facilities for desalination.” The Czech soldiers will be bringing water in tank-trucks and will be putting it through further filters as well as modifying the amount of chlorine in the Aqua Ozon devices before use.

Field Hospital It was not only the sheiks that waited impatiently for the opening of the hospital. Mainly the poorest inhabitants of Basra and its surroundings, for whom paid medical care in the local medical facilities is beyond their means. They may get help from a humanitarian gift valued at twenty million Czech crowns, which the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic wants to give to the local military hospital, in the close vicinity of which the 7th Field Hospital stands.“Minister Tvrdík is proposing to the Czech Government that a gift be presented to your hospital to the amount of fifteen million Czech crowns, which will take the form of complete equipment of an intensive care unit and equipment of an operating theatre,” General Štefka announced just before cutting the symbolic ribbon at the entrance to the outpatients’ department. “We have today brought with us a further gift to the value of five million. It comprises instruments for the surgical department, pyjamas, operating masks, sanitary requirements and other material needed in the hospital.” The Chief of the General Staff announced to the Iraqi sheiks present and to the doctors of the local military hospital that he was personally taking over patronage of the project of the complex reconstruction of the local hospital. One of the gifts that were handed over to the hospital in Basra included six trucks for the transport of water. The Ministry of Defence, in the words of Deputy Minister Kostelka, is offering to the Iraqi side the possibility of sending twenty students to study at the Military Academy in Brno and the Military Medical Academy in Hradec Králové. They can acquire education in various fields there. The members of the delegation also had a meeting with Major General Peter Wall, the Commander of the 1st British Mechanised Division, in whose operational sector the 7th Field Hospital is deployed. “We informed General Wall of our intentions of sending further units to the local area,” Major General Emil Pupiš stated. “We discussed also the activity of the military police unit and the CIMIC group.

The soldiers of this civil-military cooperation group will be working within the system of humanitarian assistance and can, in a striking manner, stress the interests of the Czech Republic in this field.” The delegation that came from Prague included six members of the Czech Parliament. They had the chance of personally seeing the situation in Iraq and the activities of the Czech soldiers in the 1st Czech-Slovak Battalion of Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection as well as that of the members of the 7th Field Hospital. “When I see the situation here, I am explicitly in favour of sending Czech soldiers to that region,” Deputy Jiří Bílý, member of the Defence and Security Committee, stated. “The situation has to be seen with one’s own eyes, because that facilitates the decision-making process. I fully agree with the gift, which is to be approved by the Government of the Czech Republic, which can be of considerable help to the local people.”

Story by Jan Procházka, Czech Armed Forces Today

First published: May 2003

Pictures taken by Jan Procházka, LTC Vladimír Marek, CPT Ivo Žvák MD, and CPT Michal Plodr MD.

The 7th Field Hospital of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic was opened in Basra, Iraq, on 19 May 2003.

Visit also: Iraq - Hope for Life