Professor Deiary Kader, the founder of the Newcastle/Gateshead Medical Volunteers group and an Iraqi Kurd himself, recently addressed the APPG on his work.
Over the last two years, the charity has recruited more than a hundred health professionals of whom sixty have visited Erbil in the Kurdistan Region. These members come from a wide range of health disciplines: surgeons, anaesthetists, Junior Doctors, nurses and a Physiotherapist.
They work with the Barzani Charity Foundation and the Nechirvan Health Aid Office as well as Zheen Hospital staff.
Their first exploratory trip was in April 2010 during which time two consultants and a Registrar saw 40 patients.
They have now notched up six visits in two years and a thousand people and performed more than 100 operations.
They have also taught Kurdish health professionals. They have exchanged views and information on issues such as pre-assessment procedures, keeping patient information, nursing skills and practice, theatre etiquette.
They also talked about key policy areas for health services such as public-private partnerships, medical regulation, quality control and training.
Deiary told the APPG that the Kurdish health system currently gives a lower status to nurses and that there is a major pay discrepancy between them and doctors, whereas nurses are the mainstay of the UK health system.
We hope that such discussions help lift the quality of the health service in the Kurdistan Region, which was badly neglected under Saddam Hussein and which still lags behind although there is a widespread appreciation that infrastructure and investment have to be improved and increased. There is a need to improve primary health care and preventative medicine to reduce the footfall in more expensive hospital settings as well as reducing over-prescribing – similar debates to the UK.
The traffic isn’t all one way. The UK health professionals gain a great deal from the experience themselves. It improves their understanding of diversity and acceptance of other cultures, their knowledge of global health issues, improves team spirit by sharing a common goal and allows them to acquire new skills.
Such sterling work is undertaken in their own time and saves the KRG much money. The APPG applauds their work and is seeking to make sure that its value is recognised more widely as an example of how people-to-people co-operation can work wonders for the UK and the Kurdistan Region, as it builds its health system almost from scratch.