It was a strange way for the Basra orthopaedic doctor to find out he was dead. “One of my patients came to see me for a routine check-up, something he does every two months, and he was surprised to see me – because I was still alive,” the doctor told NIQASH.
The patient had been waylaid by one of Basra’s medical brokers, salesmen who are paid by clinics in Basra to bring patients into their surgeries. The brokers – called dallaloun by the locals – wait at junctions where there are pharmacies, doctors’ surgeries and labs.
They speak to passers-by and recommend the services of a doctor, who eventually pays them a cut for bringing a new patient to the clinic. The business is pressured and sometimes their sales methods are dodgy. That’s what happened to the orthopaedic doctor in question.
“One of the brokers told my patient that I had died and offered to take him elsewhere,” continues the orthopaedist, who had actually been on holiday overseas; he wanted to remain anonymous because he feared for his safety if the brokers found out he was telling tales. “But my patient wanted to check this so he went to the hospital where I also work and was told that I was not dead.”
The doctor says this phenomenon of the brokers doesn’t happen elsewhere, it is unique to Basra. Most of the medical brokers work in the Aziziyah neighbourhood in Basra, where there are a lot of medical service providers and much foot traffic.
The brokers will tell potential patients all kinds of stories: The clinic has moved. The doctor is a bad doctor and inefficient, or dangerous. They may say the doctor has retired or they will garnish a doctor’s CV, saying that the person also works as a specialist at a local hospital. Or that the doctor works for a medical committee that grants sick leave to government staff.