Baghdad, Iraq – After graduating from the Faculty of Drugs final yr, Dr Omar al-Shimmari felt fairly assured and was satisfied he would quickly take step one in an extended profession path.
However the actuality was completely different. As an alternative, he has turn into a pharmaceutical gross sales consultant – a job he dislikes however wants for the paycheque.
Going door-to-door to offer product info to docs and to influence them to prescribe the medication to sufferers “is just not a good job for a health care provider, however I’ve no different option to make ends meet”, al-Shimmari stated.
Nonetheless, an absence of presidency funding has derailed the employment of 1000’s of graduates of medical universities and different well being employees in Iraq at a time when the nation’s well being establishments are limping alongside due to decimated infrastructure and a scarcity of medical employees.
In consequence, strain has elevated on the dwindling variety of medical professionals primarily in hospitals with the onslaught of COVID-19 sufferers, forcing them to not take time without work whereas in some locations they work even when they’ve the signs of the illness.
“Fourteen months have handed now since commencement and we’re staying at dwelling,” al-Shimmari, 26, advised Al Jazeera in a cellphone interview from the northern metropolis of Kirkuk.
“With out practising drugs, we’ll neglect every little thing,” he stated.
The delay in using almost 2,300 graduates has not solely affected the efforts to struggle coronavirus, however has additionally delayed the coaching chain the physicians should undergo, as these in service can’t transfer to the subsequent degree, stated the pinnacle of the Iraqi Medical Affiliation, Abdul-Ameer Muhsin Hussein.
“The employment of those graduates is an effective addition to the well being system that may deliver new power of youth,” Hussein added.
Protests for jobs
Iraq is likely one of the international locations badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the confirmed instances surpassed 5,000 for the primary time because the outbreak in February, bringing the full to 252,075. Complete deaths stand at 7,359.
The well being ministry has warned it fears the variety of infections “will lead our well being establishments to lose management” within the coming days.
The pandemic is just one concern in an extended record of woes Iraq is struggling by way of, nevertheless.
Like different oil-producing international locations, the war-ravaged nation is taking an enormous hit after oil revenues – which make up almost 95 % of its earnings – dropped greater than 50 %.
The months-long unrest – which began in October when Iraqis took to the streets to demand a greater life – has delayed the approval of the 2020 price range.
Alarmed by the dearth of medical practitioners, the Iraqi authorities fashioned a ministerial committee in July to seek out methods to make use of medical graduates, however the finance ministry refused due to the absence of the price range and an absence of funds.
On Tuesday, the cupboard issued an exemption for the newly graduated physicians to be employed, however didn’t give particulars on tips on how to pay their salaries.
The choice doesn’t cowl almost 31,000 healthcare graduates, based on Firas al-Mousawi, deputy director of state-run Al-Shafaa Centre for Crises.
Like his colleagues, al-Shimmari remains to be not satisfied the federal government is critical.
In a bid to cease what they name “procrastination” by the federal government in implementing the decree, the graduates are planning protests within the capital Baghdad and different cities on Sunday.
“The protests will run for 2 days,” stated al-Shimmari. “If nothing will occur then there shall be a partial strike by these in service besides emergency wards and intensive care items, and later we’ll begin a basic strike.”
Ailing well being system
Iraq’s well being system has suffered in recent times as greater than 20,000 docs fled due to insecurity, threats, and focused killings, leaving the nation with lower than 30,000 docs, based on Iraqi Medical Affiliation.
And 363 docs have been assassinated whereas a whole bunch endured kidnappings because the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, an assault that unleashed instability and chaos that persists to this present day.
What has additional strained the well being system, Hussein continued, is the brand new retirement legislation that went into impact this yr, which mandates the retirement at 60, forcing greater than 3,000 senior docs out of the healthcare system.
“To be trustworthy, there’s a big scarcity of primarily docs in addition to well being employees,” stated Hussein. He added the nation has one of many lowest numbers of docs and nurses per capita, standing at about 0.eight docs per 1,000 individuals.
One of many main obstacles for docs and medical employees “is the absence of a secure setting as they more and more face harassment and assaults from disgruntled households of sufferers”, Hussein stated. He’s pushing authorities to cope with assaults in opposition to medical employees utilizing the anti-terrorism legislation.
Deteriorated well being infrastructure and an absence of protecting gear whereas coping with coronavirus sufferers have precipitated infections amongst docs, he stated. For the reason that outbreak, 44 docs have died whereas greater than 1,500 others have been contaminated, a quantity that might be even increased.
Healthcare graduate from Baghdad, Mayssam Muqdad Mahmoud, 26, describes delaying their employment as “unfair as we’re left in the course of nowhere and we do not know our destiny”.
“We’re all upset and shocked,” she stated. “What’s the authorities ready for amidst the present disaster of coronavirus and lack of medical employees?”
She stated she is upset at being a “housewife” after finding out drugs for six years. So as to not neglect what she studied, Mahmoud joined different colleagues in a Fb group the place they evaluate the school curriculum.
Graduates can’t search jobs within the personal sector or exterior Iraq as authorities don’t concern their certificates earlier than finishing seven years in public service, or an individual ensures the graduate is not going to go away the nation.
“We’re like prisoners,” stated Mahmoud. “They do not allow us to begin our public service nor concern our certificates in order that we will go away the nation.”
Protesters shall be joined on Sunday by these in service who need safety from assaults, enhancements of their work setting, and evaluate advantages provided.
Prematurely of the protests, the graduates launched an internet marketing campaign on social media to martial help and improve strain on the federal government.
“A physician revolution,” stated one put up on Twitter. One other confirmed an image of a bunch of males pumping their fists within the air whereas being led by a person holding a banner saying: “Docs with out safety, with out jobs.”