Medical aid helps Hôtel-Dieu continue to offer healthcare in Lebanon
The health system in Lebanon has been devastated by the events of the last year. There is a major shortage of medical supplies.
The cataclysmic Beirut blast six months ago inflicted major damage on four hospitals and some 20 primary healthcare facilities, endangering hundreds of thousands of patients. Hôtel-Dieu de France was among the health centers devastated by the blast, making it dependent on external support. The official university hospital of the historic University of St. Joseph has been serving the country since 1883. It is one of the leading medical centers in Beirut.
They quickly depleted their supplies as 750 patients came through the hospital right after the explosion. Fadi Hindi, director of operations at the hospital, says,
“When the explosion erupted, we were in a board of directors meeting, and immediately saw the tremendous destruction. Glass scattered in the corridors and people were flooding in for treatment.”
Medical staff in Beirut report that most hospitals in the capital exhausted the majority of their medicines and health care supplies on the very night of the blast. Yet doctors had already been warning of a looming supply crisis in hospitals for more than a year. With the deepening collapse of the economy, most health facilities — both private and public — have faced serious shortages.
“The hospital is struggling because of the government's failure to pay its bills to us and the removal of the Central Bank's support for many medicines. Moreover, a number of medications are now missing from the Lebanese market, and prices have risen for all PPE material.”
The question is no longer if impoverished communities can afford medications, but if hospitals and pharmacies can even obtain the needed pharmaceuticals. Suppliers have not been able to make purchases in US dollars, a currency which is increasingly scarce and unaffordable in Lebanon.
“We desperately need medications that have become unavailable in the Lebanese market,” says May Fakhoury, head of the drug and sterilization department at the Hôtel Dieu Hospital.
“We face a shortage of medications used in operation rooms, such as dexamethasone. We’ve had to resort to using other [less effective] drugs.”
The economic crisis was already creating grave challenges for healthcare providers. Then the pandemic struck, intensifying the need for personal protective equipment. Soha Abd Al-Malik, infectious diseases control department officer at Hotel Dieu, says,
“We work on combating infectious diseases, providing testing services and have 20 beds for COVID patients. The hospital environment needs to be controlled and protected, but we face a shortage of PPE material.”
Anera and Americares have been able to respond to the emergency situation by delivering donated medical aid and medicines, allowing hospitals like Hôtel Dieu to continue their operations. Together, Anera and Americares recently delivered a medical shipment that included saline, dextrose and lactated ringer solutions. Al-Malik says,
“Thanks to Anera, we’ve been supported with PPE material and other medical aid supplies. This has been vital to our sustained work in mitigating the epidemic.”
And Fakhoury says,
“Thankfully, we received lots of aid after the Beirut blast, especially for emergency and operation rooms. Anera helped by securing PPEs, antibiotics, antivirals, anesthetics, anti-inflammatory medicines on our needs list.”
This health sector crisis is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, meaning international solidarity remains essential to address medical shortages that threaten healthcare for the vulnerable in Lebanon.