26 September 2005

Unit of the Day Award

Periodically, or less than so lately, I have published a Unit of the Day Award -- or what I have referred to as "What the MSM Neglected to tell me About." Here is today's installment. The Gulf Region Southern District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, acting as construction management, contracting and procurment support, is assisting in the construction of many Primary Healtcare Centers (PHCs) across Iraq. Upon completion of the $44.2 million contract, the project will result in the construction of 58 PHCs and performed the design work. Physical construction of the centers was subcontracted to local Iraqi firms. Defenselink reports:
BASE CAMP ADDER, Iraq, Sept. 26, 2005 — Three wars, 12 years of sanctions and 20 plus years of inadequate funding and neglect by Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party fractured Iraq’s healthcare system and put it into a death spiral.

Additionally, since April 2003, the anti-Coalition insurgency has created enormous physical and emotional hardship for the Iraqi people. Despite those obstacles, there have been improvements in the healthcare system. There has been a significant increase in the number of healthcare workers and a drastic increase in the salaries of doctors and nurses, but the infrastructure is still in need of major repair.

Typically, clinical laboratory equipment is old and malfunctioning. At one point, 70 percent of the hospitals were unable to provide the necessary laboratory tests and radiological functions to support the clinical activities in the hospitals. "When finished, the center will house a pharmacy, an emergency room, an examination area, a vaccination room, an X-ray room, an ultrasound room and a dining facility."

With the aid and assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Project and Contracting Office and other organizations, the Iraqi Ministry of Health is putting its healthcare system on the road to recovery. A coordinated effort has been underway to rebuild, restore, and replace buildings, equipment, and pharmaceuticals. In many cases, this entails new construction in areas that never had ready access to healthcare facilities.

A new Primary Healthcare Center (PHC) near Diwaniyah is one of three designs of construction the Corps’ Gulf Region Southern District (GRS) is overseeing.

“When finished, the center will house a pharmacy, an emergency room, an examination area, a vaccination room, an X-ray room, an ultrasound room and a dining facility (as well as other support facilities),” said Barry Stuard, a GRS construction representative for the Qadisiyah Resident Office. In essence the center will be “a mini hospital.”

Stuard said the center would also have a training room and living quarters for the medical staff.

Parsons Delaware Corporation was awarded the $44.2 million contract for construction of 58 PHCs and performed the design work. However, physical construction of the centers was subcontracted to local Iraqi firms.

Contracting and subcontracting to local firms supports reconstruction goals, and thereby directly supports the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructure. It provides work for the local populace and local businesses and it puts money directly into the local economy, said Stuard, a volunteer from the Corp’s Little Rock District in Arkansas.

“That’s why were here,” said Stuard, “to put people to work and to rebuild the country.”

One critical issue for the construction representatives is ensuring the contractor stays on schedule. Part of that is making sure the contractor has enough workers on site to do the job. Stuard said the center near Diwaniyah was slightly behind schedule, because initially the contractor didn’t have enough people on site to handle the workload. After meeting with the contractor and emphasizing the need for a larger workforce to meet the deadline, the problem, for this site, seems to be resolved.

“I’m happy!” said Stuard. “He’s (the contractor) got 40 workers on site and they’re doing a good job.” He also pointed out that almost all the workers were wearing the appropriate safety equipment such as hardhats and boots — a stark contrast from the beginning when the workers arrived bareheaded and wearing sandals. Additionally, supervisors were enforcing other safety measures, such as ensuring caps were placed on exposed rebar.

Stuard said he believes his work, and that of the Corps, is making a difference in the way the Iraqi people perceive the Coalition. As projects are completed the “people are a lot more friendly,” he said. “A lot of people thank us for what we’re doing…at least once a week someone stops to tell us thank you.”

Stuard related that recently one of the local sheiks, whose house was near the road, saw the convoy drive by and tracked them down just to express his appreciation for the work they are doing.

While rebuilding the medical infrastructure will take time, the construction of the PHCs helps put the healthcare system on the road to recovery.
Once again, BZ to GRS and shame on the MSM for letting this one slip by...again.

Thanks to The Mudville Gazette for their Open Post.

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