Today’s news:

Maternity hospital revamped - U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers refurbishes vital facility

With the delivery of two large truckloads of medical equipment, hundreds of mothers-to-be will benefit from the opening of a refurbished maternity hospital in western Baghdad’s Karkh district.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division managed the nearly $600,000 renovation, which includes a new heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system and electrical and mechanical upgrades.

Officials said the hospital had fallen into disrepair, receiving no upgrades and little maintenance during Saddam Hussein’s regime. In fact, officials noted, no new hospitals were completed in Iraq since the mid-1980s.

“To date, GRD has completed 21 renovations at 18 hospitals across Iraq that will treat 15,000 patients per day,” Army Brig. Gen. Jeffery Dorko, GRD commander, said. “Also, working with our government of Iraq partners, we have constructed 113 of 132 new primary health care centers that will treat 8,000 Iraqis each day. We still have more to achieve in helping provide health care to Iraqis, but we are making great strides in this important area.”

The improving security situation is paying dividends, as the GRD Gulf Region Division and its contractors complete more and more construction projects. Dr. Eman A. Atta, Karkh’s manager and hospital administrator, worked at Karkh Maternity for only six months, but has seen Baghdad and the neighborhood around the hospital improve dramatically.

“The security situation has improved greatly,” Atta said. “It was very, very bad here for so long — so bad that I refused delivery of vital medical equipment until it was safe from those who would rob and steal from the hospital.”

Atta was painfully aware of the poor security situation after one large delivery of expensive diagnostic equipment that included X-ray machines and other high-end medical equipment was hijacked — “stolen before it ever made it to the hospital,” she said with anger and frustration in her voice.

“To keep this from happening again, Dr. Emad Sabry and I arranged to store the equipment in various secret locations around Baghdad until security improved,” she said.

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