Govt Spends Millions on Medical Treatment Abroad

Saeed Moheisen from Karbala is one of many Iraqis planning to travel abroad for treatment in India. He told Al-Monitor, “After comparing the costs of a knee replacement, I chose Apollo Hospital in the Indian capital, New Delhi, as it charged half the $10,000 price of a Jordanian hospital.”

Given the hundreds of advertisements and posters that dot Iraq's cityscapes and social networking sites offering services for medical treatment abroad, one can infer that the medical tourism phenomenon has mutated into a commercial endeavor reeking of illegal or questionable profiteering. Yet, the state is encouraging these practices by allocating funds to finance the treatment abroad of cases lacking adequate local avenues for care. After medical consultations to determine whether a case is particularly difficult, a committee decides whether the afflicted person should receive state funding for treatment elsewhere.

Baghdad International Airport employee Abbas al-Sultani told Al-Monitor, “Flights to India in particular are in great demand by people seeking treatment there. There is one flight that departs Baghdad daily to India, and most passengers on that flight are seeking medical treatment.” Abbas said that his assertion was based on “passenger statistics and daily observation at the airport.”

Kazem Shaker, a doctor from Babil, attributes Iraqis' rush to seek treatment abroad to “their lack of confidence in the Iraqi medical sector.” In an interview with Al-Monitor, he said, “Even if the medical diagnosis were correct, and the available treatments adequate, people would remain unconvinced as a result of popular propaganda in favor of traveling abroad.”

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