From May 27-28, renowned regional and international healthcare experts convened at the Iraq Healthcare Conference 2013 in Erbil, Iraq (Kurdistan Region) to discuss the current state of the Iraqi health system and to develop urgently needed strategies to shape a strong public health system for Iraqi citizens. The Iraqi health system is in pressing need of targeted investments to ensure a brighter future for the health of all Iraqi people.
Covering all aspects from medical education to health insurance to hospital management, the conference participants agreed on lack of expertise and leadership skills as decisive flaw of the Iraqi healthcare sector. Professor Salman Rawaf of WHO Centre Imperial College London called for a thorough review of Ministry of Health & Governorates structures and functions, pointing out that key players in politics must be moved and the Ministry of Health instead be staffed “with doctors and healthcare specialists at State Secretary level.” Rawaf harshly criticized that the lack of medical expertise and leadership skills in the ministry led to a waste of resources, seeing that “the Ministry of Health every year sends back 60% of its budget to the Ministry of Finance, as they do not know where to invest.”
Conference participants were further reprehensive of poor quality in (continuing) medical education, hospital standards and the lack of regulations and proper legal frameworks. Delegates from Healthcare Accreditation Council Jordan and Logistics for Consultation and Development Egypt offered valuable case studies on how to set, implement and sanction international quality standards in health centers and hospitals. Regulations and accreditation for medical staff in Iraq, according to some of the experts, are so poor that anyone can open a medical practice, regardless of whether they ever went to medical school.