Cardiff-based doctor sees health progress in Iraq

Laith Al-Rubaiy talking to local people in the marshlandsImage source, Laith Al-Rubaiy
Image caption,
Dr Laith Al-Rubaiy (right) learned about the Iraq marshlands Unesco world heritage site during his visit

An Iraqi doctor said he is optimistic for the future of his home country after returning to Wales from a visit following a health scare.

The Cardiff-based consultant gastroenterologist has been nominated for an international award for his work helping improve medical care in Iraq.

He said Iraq was "gradually returning to some semblance of normality".

A year and a half since the defeat of Islamic State in the country, and six months since Iraq was in the grip of a water crisis, Dr Al-Rubaiy said Iraqis knew not to get their hopes up.

Image source, Laith Al-Rubaiy
Image caption,
Dr Laith Al-Rubaiy said life is improving for ordinary Iraqis

But he said there are signs resilience is growing in important areas of Iraqi society.

"Certainly, in my own field - medicine and healthcare - the country of my birth now has an air of guarded optimism," he said, after returning from a visit two weeks ago.

"A hugely welcome change from the feelings I had the last time I visited. This is a great step forward to provide equality and quality in health services to everyone."

Dr Al-Rubaiy, who lives in Cardiff with his wife, eight-year-old son and daughter, five, is a senior clinical lecturer at Swansea University, and works as a consultant at St Mark's hospital in Harrow, Greater London.

On 21 March, he will find out whether he has won the St David International Award at a ceremony in Cardiff.

He was nominated in recognition of his four visits in five years to Basra, in southern Iraq, where he worked with the Amar Foundation to set up mobile clinics, train medical professionals, establish cancer and virus screening projects and set up Skype consultations with doctors in Cardiff.

Image source, Laith Al-Rubaiy
Image caption,
Most Iraqi hospitals use hard copies of X-ray films rather than the digital system used in the UK

Dr Ali Muthanna, Amar's general director in Iraq, described the level of care provided by Dr Al-Rubaiy as "exceptional".

"He is a passionate supporter of Amar's healthcare services in Iraq and his voluntary work with us makes a real difference to the lives of some of Iraq's poorest people," he said.

For Dr Al-Rubaiy, who trained in Basra during the US and allied invasion in 2003, it represents an opportunity to return Iraq's healthcare system to being the envy of the region.

"If this positive momentum continues, it will not be long until the Iraq healthcare system, that was once the best in the region, achieves its full potential," he added.

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