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Here is an insight from the AP news agency on the current status of Lebanese Health services where hospitals are on the border and medical staff are exhausted:
Bathed in sweat, doctors examine patients lying on stretchers in the reception area of Lebanon’s largest public hospital. Air conditioning systems are switched off in operating theaters and storage rooms to save fuel.
Medical professionals are looking for alternatives to saline solutions after the hospital runs out. The shortage is overwhelming, the medical staff exhausted. And with a new rise in coronavirus cases, the hospitals in Lebanon are at a predetermined breaking point.
The country’s health sector is a victim of the numerous crises that have plunged Lebanon into a downward spiral – a financial and economic meltdown exacerbated by total government failure, rampant corruption and a pandemic that is not going away.
The collapse is all the more dramatic given that just a few years ago Lebanon was the leader in medical care in the Arab world. The region’s rich and famous came to this small Middle Eastern nation of 6 million people for everything from major hospital procedures to plastic surgery.
Rafik Hariri University Hospital is Lebanon’s largest public hospital and number 1 in the country for treating coronavirus patients. Lebanon has so far registered nearly 590,000 infections and over 8,000 deaths.
Many private hospitals, which provide 80% of medical care in Lebanon, are being closed for lack of resources or turning away patients who cannot pay. Photo: Hassan Ammar / AP
The hospital, which was dependent on the state energy supplier, had to rely on generators for at least 12 hours a day. Since last Monday, the generators have been the only power source that has been running continuously. Most of the hospital’s diesel, which is sold on the black market for five times the official price, is donated by either political parties or international aid organizations.
To save fuel, some rooms only run on electric fans in the sweltering summer heat. Not all hospital elevators work. Bed capacity has been reduced by around 15% and the emergency room only accepts life-threatening cases.
It’s an eternal crisis that has always brought the hospital to the brink, says its director Firas Abiad. There is “a defect in almost everything”.
Every day he struggles to get more fuel – the hospital has a maximum supply of two days at any one time. The shelves are thin for medicines, including cancer patients and dialysis patients. A new delivery of blood serum will only take a few days.
“We’re barely getting by,” said Jihad Bikai, head of the emergency room. He recently had to send a critical patient to another hospital because he no longer employs a vascular surgeon.
One afternoon at Rafik Hariri Hospital, 39-year-old nurse Mustafa Harqous tried to ignore the turmoil outside the coronavirus emergency room: patients wearing oxygen masks waited for a bed to be released, families urged to visit sick relatives, others Medicines in stock fought.
He went about his work in the 25-bed room. Except for a one month old baby, the majority of the patients were men between 30 and 40 years of age.
Power outages like this one at Rafik Hariri Hospital are becoming increasingly common in Lebanon. Photo: Hassan Ammar / AP
“Some people understand that the shortage is not our fault,” he said. “But many don’t.”
He’s worried about how he’s going to fill up his car for the hour and a half drive home. The government, he said, “leaves people in the middle of the sea without a lifeboat”.
At least 2,500 doctors and nurses have reportedly left Lebanon this year. At Rafik Hariri Hospital, at least 30% of doctors and more than 10% of nurses left the hospital, the last five in one day. Many private hospitals, which provide 80% of medical services in Lebanon, are being closed for lack of resources or turning away patients who cannot pay.
Bikai, the 37-year-old head of the emergency department, was offered a job in a neighboring country. His salary is barely enough to cover his son’s dental bills. His wife, also a doctor, works by his side in the emergency room.
“There is a moment when you push hard to get over a mountain and you come to a place where you can’t move,” he said. “I’m worried we’ll get to that.”
Abiad, the hospital director, struggles to stay positive for his staff.
“Our country is falling apart before our eyes,” he said. “The hardest part is … we don’t seem to be able to find a way to stop this deterioration.”