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Published:December 25th, 2006 14:23 EST
Basrah Children’s Hospital provides more than healthcare

Basrah Children’s Hospital provides more than healthcare

By SOP newswire

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is leading the construction efforts for the Basrah Children’s Hospital, which when complete, will provide help and comfort to generations of Iraqi children.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott King, a U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps officer, is the USACE resident engineer for the BCH project. He leads the BCH Project Office (BCHPO) team, which includes a project engineer, a construction representative, an engineering staff of three, and eight local national engineers.

“The project was originally identified through a 2003 investigation into the state of Iraqi health care by Project HOPE, an international non-profit health, education and humanitarian assistance organization,” King said. “The statistics uncovered in the investigation were staggering: Child mortality rates were very high with 150 out of 1,000 children dying before reaching the age of 5.” “The incidence of childhood cancer was found to be eight to 10 times more common than in the west, and cancer rates in southern Iraq were even higher than that of the national average,” he said. “Statistics such as these made it obvious that a children’s hospital with a special focus on pediatric oncology, built in Basrah, would have an enormous positive impact to the country, especially in the southern governorates.” Frederick Gerber, Country Director, Iraq, for Project HOPE said the hospital would fulfill a dire need for health care services targeted to children in Iraq. “The World Health Organization statistics indicate that 53 percent of Iraqis are adolescents, so we estimate that the hospital will support more than half of the population of Basrah alone,” Gerber said. The BCHPO accepted management responsibility for the hospital’s construction at the end of the summer from another U.S. government agency, when construction was approximately 30 percent complete. “Taking over a major construction program midstream with project materials and equipment in various locations across the Middle East has certainly been a challenge,” King said. “Thanks to some great cooperation from the previous management team and some long hours from our current team, it’s been a reasonably seamless process. 

“We’ve assembled a talented team to move the project forward and are having a lot of success partnering with the contractors and other government agencies involved with the project’s funding and execution,” King added. “The pace has picked up on-site and the community is seeing a lot of progress.”

Andy Frank, a BCHPO project engineer, said the construction project funding and contractor staffing is a multi-national effort.

“The cost to make the facility fully operational is estimated to be $157.1 million. The U.S. is providing about $95 million, with $84 million from the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, and $11 million from the USAID’s Child Survival and Health Fund. The Spanish Government has donated $22 million. Project HOPE will contribute $30 million for medical equipment and training. The Iraqi Ministry of Health is expected to contribute $10 million to aid portions of the initial outfitting and operation of the hospital,” Frank said.

In addition, Frank said MID-Contracting, an international company based in Amman, Jordan, is the lead contractor for the project. The Project Office also manages two additional contracts with specialized hospital and medical equipment design and consulting firms out of Jordan.

Brian Pitt, the lead engineer for the BCHPO, said USACE has the lead role in the project.

“The Gulf Region South District’s Basrah Children’s Hospital Project Office will directly oversee approximately $74 million worth of design, construction, medical equipment procurement and integration, furnishing procurement, and facility maintenance contracts,” he said.    “In addition, the project office has the lead in coordinating the efforts of their fellow partners in the project, the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Project HOPE.”

According to Frank, the BCH project is located in the southwest section of Basrah and is being constructed on a 71,000 square meter site. “A specially designed foundation and engineered soil was brought in to prepare the existing conditions for the hospital complex,” Frank said. “The project includes a two-story 16,350 square meter main hospital facility, a separate 1,000 square meter building that provides sleeping accommodations for 32 physicians and nurses, two separate electrical and mechanical buildings at 600 square meters each, three separate guard houses, landscaping, paved parking, a soccer field and a 1,134 meter security wall enclosing the site.” The main hospital facility has 94 patient beds, 20 outpatient exam rooms, an eight-bed pediatric intensive care unit, a seven-bassinette neonatal intensive care unit, and four general nursing wards, Frank said. Other features include two operating rooms, an oncology center; an imaging department with radiography, fluoroscopy, CAT scan, MRI and ultrasound capabilities; an emergency department, and an outpatient endoscopy suite. 

Besides the positive health aspects of a new hospital, the project will boost the overall economic prosperity of the region.

“Within the first month of our contract, the project was employing over 400 people on a daily basis including construction workers, a supervisory staff of over 30 contractor personnel, and over 100 security workers who provide 24-hour site security, said Paul Farley, the BCHPO’s construction rep.

The project is expected to employ between 450 to 750 workers during the various phases of the project. Gerber said there will be other benefits as well. “The children’s hospital will have a huge economic impact on the Basrah area, not only with the employees, physicians, nurses and ancillary personnel hired and paid by the Iraqi government; but with such supporting industries as food, lodging, supplies, equipment, facilities, grounds maintenance, retail stores, etc., in the surrounding areas,” Gerber said. “While the hospital will require a minimum of 510 Iraqis to staff the facility, additional employees will be needed to staff the grounds, kitchen, laundry and other ancillary operations.” The hospital also complements the Basrah Medical College, Gerber said, and will be “a support base for training physicians and nurses in the Basrah Province.” 

The BCHPO is helping to ensure the success of the hospital when finished by integrating the end-users of the facility into the construction process.

“There are three Ministry of Health engineers, who will eventually manage the hospital’s systems, working full-time alongside our Iraqi quality assurance engineers,” King said. “When we turn the hospital over to the Ministry of Health, they’ll be much more familiar with the installed systems, facility operations and required replacement parts.

“Going forward, our major challenges will be ensuring the site is properly staffed with the right skill-sets, while integrating the specialized medical equipment and furnishing requirements into the facility construction,” King said. Despite previous funding issues that slowed construction efforts in the past, King said the project is back on track and that construction was more than 30 percent complete at the end of November. “Construction of the hospital is expected to be completed in the summer of 2008,” he said. Following the installation of medical equipment, commissioning, and the initial outfitting of the hospital, it is scheduled to open its doors to patients in early 2009. 

“The completed hospital will deliver much needed specialty medical care to the children of Iraq and serve as a model training hospital for the nurses and physicians of the country. It will be a major step towards reducing child mortality rates and improving the health and quality of life of Iraqis – a definite sign of hope for the people of Iraq during challenging times,” King said.

(Story by James Bullinger, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)