Dr. Fatima Hamroush, who was based in Drogheda before she was appointed as Minister for Health in Libya, says she lived in constant fear and had to handle massive frauds while serving in the struggling country.
The Irish Times reports on Dr. Hamroush’s harrowing tale of service in Libya. As a consulting ophthalmologist, she was based at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda until November of last year when she was appointed by the National Transition Council to be Libya’s health minister.
While attempting to curtail the massive fraud from so-called “bogus” fighters who scammed the medical system by saying they were wounded during the overthrow of Gaddafi, Dr. Hamroush became a “marked” woman.
Dr. Hamroush recounted how by the end of tenure in Libya just last month, she lived in constant fear and was accompanied by eight armed guards and lived inside an army compound, which she said felt like house arrest.
Originally appointed for only eight months to her role, the doctor’s tenure was extended to a full year. She was replaced by Dr Noureddine Daghman in November and has since returned to Ireland, and will resume her post in Drogheda in January.
Dr. Hamroush was speaking in Ireland as part of a conference on the future of eye care hosted by the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) in Dublin on Thursday morning. Despite her difficult tenure as Minister in Libya, she describes the recovering country as “rich” and was ruined by the previous regime.
The opthamologist remembers how one major case of corruption cost the government a staggering €1.2 billion in fraudulent payments to those who had claimed to have been wounded in the overthrow of Gaddafi. Others attempted to get payments while abroad, and there was a massive abuse of the system.
When the fraud came to Dr. Hamroush’s attention, she worked to put a stop to it immediately. In turn, Dr. Hamroush was accused of denying medical treatment to those who had been involved in overthrowing the old regime.
One separate instance nearly saw her kidnapped by four armed men on the way to a television station; she was only saved because her drivers knew her putative kidnappers.
Another time, the doctor was physically attacked in her office, which prompted her to consider resignation.
She says her time in Libya makes her that much more appreciative of Ireland.
"There is a law here and people are held accountable. There is respect and a code of ethics here and nobody is above the law."
She also went on to say that despite her difficulties while in Libya, the country is progressing positively.
"I would particularly like to mention here is that for 40 years, all what you could see on the billboards were Gadafy's propaganda, then during the revolution that changed to photos of the martyrs and the missing, then, a year later, billboards of the candidates for election. This is change."