Lebanese hospitals are warning they may be forced to postpone kidney dialysis amid severe shortages in supplies
Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that has seen the local currency collapse and banks halted withdrawals and money transfers. As the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves are drying up, the country is witnessing shortage of medicines, fuel and other basic goods, with long lines forming outside petrol stations.
On Thursday, doctors said they may be forced to postpone kidney dialysis, blaming the shortage on a dispute between medical importers and the central bank over subsidies.
“This is a crime against humanity,” said George Ghanem, chief medical officer of the Lebanese American University Medical Center – Rizk Hospital, reading a statement on behalf of the doctors.
“Hospitals and the medical sector cannot continue like this. We are going through very difficult days, where we will no longer be able to take patients.”
Ghanem called on the United Nations and the World Health Organization to step in by sending aid directly to hospitals or the Red Cross, bypassing the Lebanese government and the Central Bank.
“Otherwise tomorrow there are patients who will not have dialysis, patients who will not be diagnosed, and patients who will not be operated upon,” he said. Already, 350 brands of basic medicines were in short supply, he said.
The crisis in Lebanon, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class, has pushed more than half the population into poverty, causing the local currency to lose more than 85% of its value. The World Bank said on Tuesday that the Lebanese crisis is one of the world’s worst in 150 years.
The crisis is exacerbated by the inability of politicians to agree on a new government amid great challenges facing the country. Outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet resigned last August, days after a major explosion at the port of Beirut, and the country does not have a fully functioning government.
The recession, with no end in sight, posed the greatest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975–90 civil war.
“We are heading towards a real catastrophe,” said Dr Hala Kilani, in-charge of the dialysis department at LAUMC-Rizk Hospital. He said medical teams were fighting each day to secure the necessary quantity of filters for patients to continue dialysis and blood tests. Even finding needles to give blood for dialysis patients, who are usually anemic, is a struggle.
“We have to call a million pharmacies just to find one or two needles,” she told the Associated Press. “it’s very dangerous.”
Issam Yasin, 40, on dialysis, said he was short of words. “It is very difficult and if this continues it will be a catastrophe.”
“For us, if there is no dialysis then there is no option,” he said.
Dr Kilani said the current situation was worse than it was during Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.
“We have honestly never reached the position we are in now,” Kilani said. “If we can’t secure essential supplies, patients will die.”