Tomorrow no patients will be admitted to Rafik Hariri University Hospital (Beirut Governmental University Hospital). The Hospital’s Family is on strike. The medical staff and employees refuse to mask the sloppiness of Lebanese Ministry of Health and the hospital’s administration that may lead to fatal consequences if no action is taken to reform the already shaking hospital.
When you listen to what is known only to employees of RHUH you get the feeling that the largest Lebanese public hospital; the one founded with 544 beds to serve patients from Lebanon and abroad in its highly qualified clinics and annexed hotel; is walking with heavy steps to agony. While the ministry of health (MOH) and the hospital’s administration continue to wrestle with one another for their own reasons, the situation in the hospital is increasingly deteriorating and the only side trying to prevent this disaster is the Hospital’s Family: the aggregation of employees, workers, medical staff and residents.
When it was first opened in 2004 the hospital was competing with the biggest hospitals of Beirut: highly qualified staff, best equipments, high patient-capacity and feasibility of medical services for all classes of society. Now the financial deficiency under which the hospital is functioning has affected everything and everyone here. Since 2004 the building hasn’t been innovated, equipments are going out of order without being replaced or fixed, and employees have never been paid their salaries on time – the last time they were paid was for August 2012.
Medical services are suffering the most. Hadn’t it been for the creativity of the medical staff, patients wouldn’t have been still receiving decent medical care despite minimal availability of medications and equipments. Sometimes a doctor cannot find a needle or a syringe to treat his patients. Patients are asked to buy their medications because the hospital cannot provide them with the drug they need. Several departments are either totally un-functional or partially inactive because of the shortages. The open heart surgery department which used to perform about 10 operations per week performs one per month now. Craniotomy (head neural surgery) and organ transplantation surgeries have been stopped; though successfully performed earlier. Some essential instruments (ultrasound machine for example) can be repaired with less than 200$ cost, but no funds are available. Even infection control is affected by the deficiency (can you imagine a hospital fighting infection without proper antibiotics?).
Seeing the current state in which RHUH is, AUB has withdrawn its residents from the hospital departments. Residents from BAU and Lebanese University are still there to serve. These young doctors are doing their best to help patients and protect the hospital. They themselves come from a financially modest background and they understand this hospital is the only one to receive their families when they seek medical help. It is interesting to know that about 140 patients undergo dialysis in RHUH on the behalf of MOH. These patients would be left to face the worst fate if the hospital sinks into more shortage.
Earlier this month MOH refused to fund the hospital claiming its administration corrupted. The administration, on the other hand, has failed since 2004 to preserve the hospital and maintain the high quality standards the RHUH was planned to meet. After several actions taken by the Hospital’s Family, the government and MOH agreed to pay 30 milliard LL. to support the hospital; an amount barely enough to pay salaries for few months. The Hospital’s Family is still going for a strike tomorrow. What they are calling for is not just to have their salaries paid. A rescue plan is needed to save RHUH before it is too late; a plan to fight corruption and make the hospital stand firmly and support itself.