Nearly seventy-five per cent of Lebanon’s population is now living on less than $2 a day, as the country’s economy has gone into freefall since 2019.
Health care and the economy are intertwined in Lebanon.
As parents desperately seek help for their sick children outside one of Lebanon’s premier hospitals, beds are left empty and abandoned inside.
According to the hospital’s pediatric critical care director Elie Choueiry, there aren’t enough nurses to keep the unit operational.
“Children are dying because they can’t be cared for,” said Choueiry of the Hotel-Dieu de France hospital in Beirut, whose abandoned children’s wing still features bright walls and calming stories.
In a word, “it’s heartbreaking.”
Almost three-quarters of Lebanon’s population now lives in poverty, and the country’s currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value, forcing many medical professionals to leave.
Lebanon’s medical system, once among the best in the Middle East, is in decline due to staff departures, funding issues, and shortages.
According to the WHO, about 40% of Lebanon’s doctors and 30% of its nurses had departed by September 2021.
Head of the doctors’ syndicate Sharaf Abou Sharaf claims that more are prepared to depart.
Several medical institutions have been forced to close departments as a result of the departure of several surgeons, emergency doctors, and intensive care physicians, according to Sharaf.
There have been 133 of the Hotel-Dieu de France’s 500 nurses who have resigned since the crisis began.
Hospitalizations for sick youngsters have increased, according to Choueiry.
More than “a large percentage of children” are unprotected because many hospitals cannot afford imported immunizations, he added.
Patients are at risk because doctors and nurses are unable to keep up with the rising demands of their jobs and the resulting decrease in income.
Despite the recommendation of the Order of Nurses, hospitals are increasingly requiring nurses to care for up to 20 patients.
According to an unidentified medical professional, “the healthcare brain drain jeopardizes millions of people’s health, and the industry needed CPR.”
To protest central bank policy, doctors and hospitals embarked on a two-day strike in May, admitting only emergency cases and dialysis patients, in May.
The Lebanese pound is legally regulated at 1,500 to the dollar, but the black market rate has pushed it past 28,000, which has impacted hospital expenses, revenues, and pay packages.
Firas Abiad, the country’s health minister, announced that the ministry is working to stop the exodus of medical personnel.
As he said to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “the strategy includes boosting investment in health infrastructure, fair pay for workers, and creating an atmosphere that will benefit them.”
According to 32-year-old nurse Manal Zeiter, her life plans have been completely rewritten because of the crisis.
Last year, she relocated to Belgium in search of a more secure environment “that doesn’t force me to keep fretting about my children’s safety.”
Lebanon’s medical crisis is exacerbated by drug and supply shortages. Blood and analgesics are frequently requested by social media users.
Since medical costs have risen, the poor have been unable to afford treatment.
Many Lebanese patients are forced to fork out money upfront, despite the fact that the state would otherwise cover the costs. Hospitals across Lebanon began billing in dollars as the value of the lira plummeted.
The cost of conventional medication is prohibitive for many.
Joumana Al Karim, a 40-year-old Beirut resident, was initially scheduled for surgery after a catastrophic fall.
Al Karim, a private school teacher, was unable to move or sleep owing to severe leg pain.
“The surgery was postponed since the hospital lost power on the appointed day. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into debt to pay for it because of this.
Since she cannot afford medications or medical consultations, she is turning to natural cures.
Herbal medicine isn’t helping, but she’s doing something she can afford.
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