Eye doctor and former minister of health in the Libyan interim government, Dr Fatima Hamroush pictured at the ‘Innovations in Eye Care Delivery – Embracing New Challenges’ conference organised by the Irish College of Ophthalmologists today in Dublin.
An Irish-based consultant ophthalmologist who became Libya’s health minister after the overthrow of Libya’s former government said she feared for her life doing her job.
Dr Fatima Hamroush was based at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda until November last year until she was appointed by the National Transition Council as the country’s health minister.
Dr Hamroush said she became a marked women after attempting to deal with a massive fraud on the Libyan state by bogus fighters who claimed to have been wounded in the overthrow of the legitimate government.
At the end of her tenure last month she was accompanied by eight armed guards carrying Kalashnikovs and lived inside an army compound. She said it felt like house arrest.
She was a member of the Libyan opposition based overseas since 2008. Her original appointment was for eight months but it was extended for a year. She is now back in Ireland having worked in the post until November 21st and has been replaced by Dr Noureddine Daghman. She may attempt to return to her post in Drogheda in January.
Speaking at a conference on the future of eye care hosted by the the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) in Dublin this morning, Dr Hamroush described Libya as a rich country ruined by current corruption and lawlessness.
She recounted having to deal with a major fraud in her short time in the ministry. One involved a major corruption which cost the State €1.2 billion in fraudulent payments to those who had claimed to have been wounded in the overthrow of the former government.
Others were getting payments to receive treatment abroad and the system was abused. She said the scam was run by a different department. When it was brought to her attention, she put a stop to it. She was then accused of denying medical treatment to those who had been involved in overthrowing the legitimate government.
At one stage she was stopped by four armed men on the way to a television station and was saved because her drivers knew her kidnappers. She was later physically attacked in her office and on another occasion she barred them from her office. “At that stage I thought I should resign.”
Dr Hamroush said her experiences in Libya made her appreciate Ireland a lot more and she would happily swap her previous role with the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly.
“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.”