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5th CAG cares for Haditha Hospital's wounds

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20056142413
Story by Cpl. Christi Prickett

HADITHA, Iraq (June 1, 2005) -- Since the middle of March, Team 4, Detachment 4, 5th Civil Affairs Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD), has played a vital role in Haditha. The city is known as one of the hottest spots in western Iraq.

During Operation New Market, which began on the night of May 23, the main objective of the CAG team, led by Maj. Matthew D. Chisholm, Team 4 leader, was to assess recent damages done to Haditha Hospital. The hospital was damaged earlier in the month when insurgents occupied the building. The team also wanted to talk to the staff to see how the hospital was functioning and ask locals their opinions about personal care.

“It is very unfortunate that the hospital was involved in the situation,” said Chisholm, a San Diego native. “After an attack such as this one, the CAG team has to stop and look at the overall situation. We immediately begin to get things running, like communications and laboratory capabilities. The next closest hospital is Hit, so people need this hospital to get care.”

Damage to the one-story hospital occurred when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was driven into an outside wall during a firefight with Marines from 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. Only the service wing, kitchen, laundry, storage room and private patient ward sustained severe fire damage and no civilian casualties occurred.

“The insurgents came in and took over [the hospital],” said a doctor working there. “We didn’t want them here but they came anyway.”

Haditha Hospital is able to give care but patients and staff members are scared because operations are still going on in the city, explained a 25-year-old nurse at the hospital.

“I don’t blame them for being intimidated,” said Chisholm. “Even some of the most dedicated and educated people, like the doctors, can’t stand up to insurgency. Sometimes they’re just not in a position to protect themselves.”

“We could all see how much the insurgency is hurting their own people by destroying the hospital which usually could serve up to 500 patients a day,” said Cmdr. David C. Lu, 5th CAG medical officer and civil affairs liaison.

While Operation New Market was on going in the city, the doctors weren’t coming to work, which meant only a handful of staff members had to work around the clock.

“You need to call and tell them to come to work,” Chisholm told the staff. “The Marines are helping protect the immediate area, so coming to work should be no problem. They are just making you work harder.”

The hospital staff is made up about 30 doctors, 26 nurses and 16 assistants. Lu said the hospital is one of 12 hospitals in Iraq chosen to maintain Level 3 facilities, which means it must have surgical capabilities.

“The CAG will coordinate with Dr. Rafe, Director General of Health, Al Anbar province, and the Ministry of Health to ensure a prompt rebuilding process of the damaged hospital," said the staff internist at Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Youngstown OPC, Ohio, who served eight years on active duty before entering the reserves the past four years.

"We have plans to give them new equipment like beds and a new ambulance before anything else,” said Chisholm.

Chisholm said his job is gratifying.

“We are the only hope some people have,” he explained. “We have two great teams in the area trying to get the hospital and other projects completed so the people can have their life back.”


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