They found that childhood cancer was almost five times high in southern Iraq than in the rest of the country. In 2004, in a public-private partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development and Project HOPE, construction of the hospital began.
“The U.S. government is not in the habit of building hospitals; however, there was a great need for a specialty hospital in this part of Iraq,” said Dr. Joseph Núñez, Senior Energy and Commercial Development officer at the U.S. Consulate in Basrah. “Over time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over the project.”
The two-story 160,000 sq. ft. hospital is a 94-bed clinical and training pediatric facility capable of providing both inpatient and outpatient care. The facility has operating rooms, a pharmacy, imaging department, laboratory facilities and it can treat patients needing physical or respiratory therapy. Outpatient services include primary, specialty and emergency treatment. The site also has a 38-bed residence facility.
The hospital first opened for outpatient services in fall 2010 and today provides inpatient and outpatient services, with the exception of the oncology department, said David Schmidt, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Middle East District project manager.
Before the facility can begin treatment of cancer patients, a Patient On-Board Imager is needed for the linear accelerator, which is the device that delivers radiation treatment to patients. The OBI contract is currently in pre-award status, said Schmidt.
He added that all U.S. government funded components should be completed by summer 2014.
“There is also a tentative contract funded by the Iraqi government to hire qualified oncology staff to run the oncology department,” Schmidt said. “This contract is the last essential component so that the Basrah Children’s Hospital can provide radio-therapy treatment to the pediatric cancer patients.”
There is a waiting list of more than 2,000 cancer patients at the hospital waiting for treatment using the linear accelerator, said Schmidt.
Once the hospital is fully operational, it will help reach the goal of the Iraqi Ministry of Health to reduce child morality in the region by 50 percent, affecting more than one million children in the region.
“When the oncology treatment section is completed, the Basrah Children’s Hospital will be the only facility in southern Iraq that can treat such deserving patients,” said Núñez.