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High prices at private hospitals in Kurdistan Region is failure of public sector administration, says Sulaimani health official

As coronavirus outbreak continues to hammer population
Ambulances in Kurdistan Region (NRT Digital Media)
2020-08-11

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SULAIMANI — Deputy Director of the Sulaimani Health Directorate Hersh Said Salim said on Monday (August 10) that high prices at private hospitals represents a failure of public sector administration in the Kurdistan Region.

On Monday, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Health released a list of prices for coronavirus-related care at private hospitals, saying that it would ensure that cost control measures are in place to ensure availability of treatment.

Nevertheless, the prices that the ministry listed would be far out of reach for most people in the Kurdistan Region.

For example, under the ministry’s cost controls, a one-night stay at a private hospital would run 500,000 Iraq dinars ($418) without supplementary oxygen or 700,000 dinars ($585) with oxygen.

A one-night stay in an intensive care unit with a ventilator costs 1,500,000 Iraqi dinars ($1,254).

According to a 2018 survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), “87 percent of households in the Kurdistan Region have a monthly income of less than 1,000,000 Iraqi dinars [$836].” Thirty-six percent earn less than half of that per month.

Said Salim said in a statement that people resorting to such higher-cost care was the “raising of a white flag by the health ministry to the private sector.”

“This kind of innovation only suits the kind of administration that cannot provide the simplest service to all of its residents,” he said.

He also said that he was proud of the Sulaimani Health Directorate’s “entire staff…from the cleaners to the general director” for their work in caring to patients at the governorate’s public health facilities.

At several points, he appeared to try to score partisan points, by comparing the current state of the coronavirus outbreak in Kurdistan Democratic Party-controlled Erbil and Duhok unfavorably with conditions in Sulaimani, whose institutions are dominated by its historic rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

With the entire Kurdistan Region still in the midst of a brutal outbreak that has killed more than 600 people, almost three-fourths of them in Sulaimani, and infected more than 17,000, such comparisons are likely of little comfort to those suffering.

Every day over the last week has included a single-day new case total in the top ten for the entire outbreak, including the top three and four of the top five.

While daily new case numbers have risen in Duhok and Erbil in recent weeks and Sulaimani’s have comparatively fallen, the outbreak remains potent in all areas of the Region.

On Monday, the health ministry said that there were 278 new cases in Erbil governorate, 180 in Sulaimani, 32 in Duhok, and eighteen in Halabja.

(NRT Digital Media)