Iraq's Oil Money Not Buying Health Care

In the five short minutes it takes Dr. Haider Rashid to examine a patient, Iraq will have pumped more than a million dollars worth of oil - more than $300 million worth every day, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

But you wouldn't know it looking at the dingy emergency room of the Kahdimiyah Hospital.

U.S. Army doctors say it's one of the best in the city - yet it lacks the most basic supplies.

"I am talking about IV fluids - I'm talking about strong antibiotics," one doctor said in English.

Anaesthetic is also lacking. One man had his foot stitched up with nothing to kill the pain but his son's embrace.

"How do you reconcile the fact that we know that Iraq has many billions of dollars of oil money waiting to be spent?" Palmer asked.

"I don't know how to answer that," the doctor said. "I don't know."

Bassim Sharif does. He's a Member of Parliament on the Health Oversight Committee.

"There is a corruption in Iraq and the corruption is widespread," he said.

But corruption is only part of the problem. Political in-fighting also is squeezing Iraq's health budget -- so much that only $68 was available per person.

Compare that to, for example, $650 per person in Mexico and $2,547 in the United States.

"We used up our whole drugs budget in the first six months of this year," Bassim said.

In Khadimiyah Hospital, a young girl is rushed in - wounded in a mortar attack.

But security has improved so much that war trauma patients like this are now the exception.

Blog: How lacking Baghdad hospital care touched a CBS News producer
But the beds are still full, and medical staff who thought better security would let them deliver better care are bitter.

"I am so hurt that my patients are suffering and can't do anything for them for lack of simple things that are available in every country in the world," one doctor said.

Simple, critical things doctors know Iraq's oil money could so easily buy.
  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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