MOSUL'S STRAINED HEALTH CARE

Rebuilding the Al-Salam Hospital

In October 2016, the Iraqi forces began moving to retake Mosul from ISIL. Saad Sultan and his family, like everyone else, tried to flee the city before the conflict intensified. They left their Al Aden neighbourhood where fighting was approaching for Al Hadbaa, where Saad’s parents lived, a few neighbourhoods farther north – both areas are in East Mosul. But for them, the journey on foot took a whole day as Saad, supported by his wife, literally gasped for air all along the way due to exhaustion from cardiac complications and blocked arteries. “I could barely breathe, and bullets were flying over our heads.”

Saad’s family decided to stay until their neighbourhood was retaken by Iraqi forces – come what may.

A patient at the newly reopened Al-Salam Hospital. Photo: Raber Aziz / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Saad had already undergone a major cardiovascular surgery in Mosul’s hospital when it was still under ISIL’s control. But it had not gone well as the post-surgery medicine that he received “was not of good quality”. His condition deteriorated with each passing day until his arteries blocked again.

When East Mosul was completely retaken from ISIL, Saad thought he could go to the hospital and receive the treatment he needed. But most of the primary health care centres were out of service, and the main hospital, Al-Salam, was in ruins. The destruction was even heavier in West Mosul, with whole neighbourhoods completely destroyed.

Destroyed streets, shops and homes in West Mosul.

Before ISIL’s takeover, Mosul had 12 public hospitals and more than 70 health facilities, including primary health care centres and health clinics. Mosul’s Madinat Al Tib (Medical City), in West Mosul, was the largest health complex in the city.

The Medical City’s crumbling structure barely stands now. Mosul General Hospital in West Mosul was partly damaged by the fighting as well, and is under heavy pressure because of the high number of patient caseloads. Al-Salam teaching hospital, the largest public hospital in East Mosul, was also severely damaged.

Medical City, the largest health facility in West Mosul, was completely destroyed by the fighting. Photo: Raber Aziz / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

The General Hospital of Mosul was also partially damaged during the fighting. Photo: Raber Aziz / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

The Original Al-Salam Hospital was the city's main hospital.

In March 2017, Al-Salam hospital staff returned and salvaged whatever undamaged equipment they could find among the hospital’s rubble and reassembled them in a nearby location. With a capacity of 50 beds, only one patient monitor and insufficient equipment, the new centre’s capabilities were limited. IOM, the UN Migration Agency, donated seven patient monitors and other medical supplies that enabled the hospital to expand to 160 beds.

The original Al-Salam Hospital. Photo: Raber Aziz / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Additionally, in late October, IOM donated US$500,000 worth of equipment to Al Salam hospital to strengthen the hospital’s role in providing services to displaced people, returnees and vulnerable host community members.

The medical equipment and supplies donated to Al-Salam Hospital include: operating tables, anesthesia machine, ventilators, medical monitors, infusion pumps, heart defibrillators, hospital-grade autoclave sterilizers, patient trollies, X-ray machines, laboratory equipment and consumable medical supplies.

Delivering medical equipment to the new Al-Salam Hospital. Photo: Raber Aziz / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Al-Salam teaching hospital is now the only health facility with an intensive care unit in Mosul, and the only hospital capable of major surgeries in East Mosul. Al-Salam conducts 50 major surgeries every day, with 450 to 500 patients visiting the hospital everyday.

With the start of the new school year, children going to school for the first time must get vaccinated. Photo: Raber Aziz / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

East Mosul now looks like a busy city - possibly even more so than before the conflict - with the high number of returnees and of displaced people from West Mosul, where most of the destruction took place. And Al-Salam, as the only fully operational hospital there, now has an increased patient load.

In mid-November, Saad, on the brink of death, was rushed to the Al-Salam Hospital.

“My body was not functioning well because of my heart issue. I fainted; my blood pressure was very high but they managed to control it after they admitted me into the intensive care unit. The medical team took good care of me; they monitored my condition using the patient monitor, trying to bring me back to life. If it were not for this hospital I would be dead now.”

The offensive to retake Mosul displaced over one million individuals according to IOM's Displacement Tracking Matrix.

“The economic situation is very bad. I have no work and no income except for my pension and I support my cousin's children as well because he disappeared; nobody knows what happened to him. I cannot afford to pay for the medication that I need, so I am grateful for this hospital where I receive health care and medication for free,” Saad added.