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An elected Libyan government should restore order to the health system

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 05 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6385
  1. Issam M Hajjaji, consultant physician, Tripoli, Libya

“There are tanks on the streets. Get up! Get up!” cried my mother on 1 September 1969. So started Lieutenant Muammar Gaddafi’s coup d’etat. I was 10 years old and attending an English school in Tripoli. Within two years the ruling military council closed foreign language schools, and I was rushed to a boarding school in Kent because the school year was starting two weeks later. Libya, then with a population of three million, became wealthy in the 1970s as the price of oil shot up. Modern hospitals were built, foreign staff were employed, and the first medical were schools opened in Benghazi and then Tripoli. Doctors were sent abroad for postgraduate training.

Matters began to take a different path in the 1980s. Public executions, imprisonment, and forced military conscription became widespread. Though healthcare was free, there was a noticeable decline in standards. The “revolutionary committees”—groups of zealots who were often violent—were present in hospitals, clinics, and universities.

I went to medical school at Trinity College, Dublin and then returned to the UK to do senior …

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