Why Is Lebanon No More The Medical Pride Of Middle East?

Doctors doing Surgury

The Lebanese medical staff is a harried lot; not because of the COVID19 situation itself, but because of the limited supply of material to support their war against the pandemic. Most hospitals are running out of supplies.

The country which was considered one of the best in the Middle East for its medical facilities is getting pushed down due to the mounting financial crisis in the country. Most hospitals are finding it difficult to pay monthly salaries too. They are already under pressure from the increasing number of cases of Covid19 that they are unable to keep their facilities running on a daily basis.

There is no money circulation in the Lebanese market, making the hospitals to run in severe losses. To add to their survival woes are frequent power cuts. Across the country, hospitals and doctors are reporting shortages in vital medical supplies such as anesthesia drugs and sutures. Precious resources are being spent to procure fuel to run generators. Sadly, many hospitals are being forced to turn away not so critical cases to conserve resources.

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Selim Abi Saleh, the head of the Physicians Union in northern Lebanon, one of the country’s poorest and most populated regions feels that the current government has to take onus of the situation and come up with a saving plan, “unless we want to close down all the medical facilities at the darkest hour facing humanity.”

Hospitals right now would not want to let go off their staff. But many are laying-off employees. Nurses are being let off or working on reduced salaries. Strangely, the state itself owns these hospitals millions. Nearly a third of Lebanon’s 15,000 physicians aim to migrate or already have.  Since 2011 the state’s insurance fund has failed to reimburse Lebanese hospitals. Private hospitals say that the state owes them as much as USD 1.3 billion.

Up until now, the public hospitals have been able to keep the infection in control. There has been more effort on the prevention part, which has been a sensible move by most other nations that have successfully controlled the outbreak. However, the nation needs to have its medical infrastructure well oiled and ready, in case of a second wave. Lebanon’s medical facilities comprise 85percent private establishments. Most of these receive funding out of political considerations that actually determines the size of state funds and financial caps to these hospitals. On the flipside, public facilities suffer from understaffing and neglect.

The situation has been exasperated as there is dearth of funds with the banks as well. Private hospitals’ struggles have been compounded manifold by this banking sector crisis that has locked down foreign currency accounts and complicated imports and the issuing of letters of credit.

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