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Iraqi Hospital Struggles to Maintain US-Funded Improvements


Pregnant women and their families crowd the halls of the Irbil Maternity Teaching hospital. This 300-bed facility in Iraq's northern Kurdish region is one of the best in the area, and many patients travel hours from the violent cities of Kirkuk and Mosul to receive care. On a busy day, as many as 80 babies are born here.

The U.S. government paid a contractor six-million 800-thousand dollars in 2005 and 2006 to modernize the facility. Contractors installed new floors and plumbing, set-up new boilers and air-conditioning units, and added some modern hospital equipment like an incinerator and an oxygen delivery system.

Stuart W. Bowen, Jr. is the special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction.

"We visited the Irbil maternity hospital up in Kurdistan this quarter. It was something we reported on previously as a project that was well constructed. This was a sustainment review to see if the Iraqis are using the facility properly. The answer is, no."

One year after the contractors left and the hospital staff took over, inspectors say some of the expensive improvements are failing, but hospital workers insist it is not their fault.

Hospital Director Dr. Sabriya Hamadameen says when contractors turned over the new equipment to the hospital they only told workers how to operate the equipment. She says they did not explain how to maintain it.

"We have the problem about the spare parts and the training. Our engineers they have no training about the new boiler and chiller [air conditioning] which they supplied to this hospital."

U.S. inspectors found similar maintenance problems throughout the facility in January.
They recommended American officials work with the Iraqi government to train hospital workers on how to properly use and maintain the new equipment.

But in response, U.S. embassy officials in Baghdad rejected such a move, saying that once the facility was turned over to the Iraqis, American contractors had no obligation to train the hospital staff.

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