Beirut (AP) — Lebanese hospitals warned Thursday that they could be forced to stop kidney dialysis next week amid the latest serious supply shortages of the accelerating crisis in Lebanon and the collapse of the medical sector.
Lebanon is tackling the unprecedented economic and financial crisis of the collapse of local currencies and banks cracking down on withdrawals and remittances. As the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves are depleted, the country is witnessing a shortage of medicines, fuels and other basic commodities, with long lines outside the gas stations.
The once prosperous healthcare system has been hit hardest, some hospitals have stopped elective surgery, laboratories are running out of test kits, and doctors have recently run out of anesthesia for surgery. I warn you that there is a possibility.
On Thursday, doctors blamed the lack of controversy between medical importers and central banks over subsidies and said they could then be forced to suspend kidney dialysis.
“This is a crime against humanity,” said George Ganem, chief medical officer at the Lebanese University Medical Center-Rizuk Hospital, reading a statement on behalf of his doctor.
“Hospitals and the medical department can’t continue this way. We’re approaching very difficult days when we can’t accept patients,” he added.
Ganem appealed to the United Nations and the World Health Organization to bypass the Lebanese government and the central bank and urge them to intervene by sending direct assistance to hospitals and the Red Cross.
“Otherwise, tomorrow, some patients will not undergo dialysis, some will not be diagnosed, and some will not undergo surgery,” he said. Already there were 350 brands of basic medicines that were missing, he added.
The crisis in Lebanon, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by established political classes, has driven more than half of the population into poverty and the local currency has lost more than 85% of its value. The World Bank said Tuesday that the crisis in Lebanon was one of the worst crises the world has seen in the last 150 years.
The crisis was exacerbated by the inability of politicians to agree on the new government in the enormous challenges facing the country. A few days after the big explosion at the port of Beirut last August, Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet resigned, and the country has lost a fully functioning government ever since.
The endless meltdown poses the greatest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.
“We are heading for a real catastrophe,” said Hala Kilani, a physician in charge of the dialysis department at LAUMC-Rizk Hospital. She said the medical team is fighting daily to ensure that the amount of filters needed to continue the patient’s dialysis and blood tests. Even finding a needle to administer blood for a dialysis patient who is usually anemic is struggling.
“You have to call a million pharmacies just to find one or two needles,” she told The Associated Press. “This is very dangerous.”
Issam Yassin, 40, who is on dialysis, said his words were at a loss. “It’s very difficult and if it continues, it will be catastrophic.”
“For us, without dialysis, there is no alternative,” he said.
Doctor Kirani said the current situation was worse than during the 1975-90 civil war in Lebanon.
“We honestly have never reached the current situation,” Kirani said. “Patients die if they don’t have the supplies they need.”