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Economic Sanctions Cause 'War-time Conditions' in Iranian Hospitals

'The government is playing with our people's health.'

Common Dreams staff

An Iranian woman gives a prescription to a pharmacist in Tehran on Oct. 21, 2012. Some 6 million patients in Iran are affected by Western economic sanctions as the importation of medicine is becoming increasingly difficult. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images.)

Economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western countries have left hospitals in Iran working in "war-time conditions," with many drugs scarce or too costly for most patients.

Medical practitioners also allege that the government has mismanaged state funds, exacerbating the health-care crisis.

"Medical staff have been told that they are working in "war-time conditions" and should prescribe drugs sparingly — or in many cases not at all — in an effort to save resources," Jason Rezaian reports in The Washington Post.

Rezaian continues, quoting one of several sources who would only reveal their first names:

“It means our hands are tied,” said Nasrin, a doctor at a government-run hospital in the central city of Shiraz. “We’ve been given a list of over 120 drugs that we are not to prescribe, because we simply don’t have them.”

The cost of chemotherapy has quadrupled in the past year, said Hosseinali Sahhriari, head of the parliament's health committee, adding, "Practically speaking, we have to tell a majority of such patients to go and die."

Sanctions by the US and other Western countries are focused on ending Iran's uranium-enrichment program.

Some Iranians — used to medical care subsidized by the government — also blame the  government — struggling with decreased oil exports and other financial difficulties — for the scarcity of medication.

Sahhriari told Rezaian that "the government is playing with our people's health and is not assigning the approved finances."

Of $2.5 billion called for to import medicine and supplies in this year's budget, only $600 milion had been delivered to Iran's central bank this yaer, according to Minister of Health Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi. Dastjerdi said authorities have begun to import the medicines by commercial flight because they cannot wait for the usual cargo-ship deliveries.

The Washington Post reports:

Mojtaba, who has a thriving private practice in central Tehran, said, "This isn't a situation that can persist for more than a couple of months. The human cost and the potential national expense of caring for too many sick people can't be ignored."

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