The outbreak of a horrific fire at a teaching hospital in southern Iraq has once again highlighted the mismanagement at the hospitals where Iraq trains its medical students, prompting expressions of concern from medical educators and students.
The explosion of three oxygen tanks at Al-Hussein Hospital in Nasiriyah, a city in Dhi Qar governorate, killed more than 90 people, including patients, doctors and nurses, and injured dozens. This tragic accident came about three months after a similar accident at Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in Baghdad, which killed at least 82 people and injured 110 others.
Besides patients, the Nasiriyah hospital, like other public hospitals under the management of Iraq’s Ministry of Health, receives medical students in their last three academic years to do practical training, since there are no university hospitals that are independently attached to medical colleges at public universities.
Students and professors in these colleges complain about the poor medical capabilities at teaching hospitals, the small number of supervising doctors, as well as the lack of necessary safety measures—something clearly shown by the recent accident, where witnesses confirmed that the fires could have been controlled if a fire extinguisher or a central alarm system were in place.
“The facilities are very limited in these hospitals,” said Tabarak Hussein, a fifth-year medical student at the University of Thi-Qar, who used to visit the hospital four times a week for practical training. “There is a great shortage of modern medical devices, and constant power outages,” she said in a phone call. “In addition, there are no places designated for the trainee students to sleep.”