BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese hospitals on Thursday warned they may be forced to suspend kidney dialysis next week due to severe supply shortages, the latest in Lebanon’s accelerating crises and collapse of the health sector.
Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that has seen the local currency collapse and banks crack down on withdrawals and money transfers. As the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves dry up, the country is experiencing shortages of drugs, fuel and other basic items, with long lines at gas stations.
The once thriving healthcare system has been among the hardest hit, with some hospitals halting elective surgeries, labs running out of test kits and doctors warning in recent days that they may even run out of anesthesia for operations.
Doctors on Thursday said they may be forced to suspend upcoming kidney dialysis, blaming the shortages on a dispute between drug importers and the Central Bank over subsidies.
“It is a crime against humanity,” said George Ghanem, chief medical officer of the Lebanese American University – Rizk Hospital Medical Center, reading a statement on behalf of the doctors.
“Hospitals and the medical sector cannot continue like this. We are approaching very difficult days when we will no longer be able to receive patients, ”he added.
Ghanem appealed to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, urging them to intervene by sending aid directly to hospitals or the Red Cross, bypassing the Lebanese government and the Central Bank.
“Otherwise, there are patients tomorrow who will not have their dialysis, patients who will not be diagnosed and patients who will not be operated,” he said. Already, there were 350 brands of basic medicines that were missing, he added. .
The crisis in Lebanon, which is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by an entrenched political class, has plunged more than half of 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 was one of the worst the world has seen in the past 150 years.
The crisis has worsened considerably due to the inability of politicians to agree on a new government amid the colossal challenges facing the country. The cabinet of outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned days after a massive explosion in the port of Beirut last August, and the country has not had a fully functioning government since.
The collapse, with no end in sight, constitutes the most serious threat to the stability of Lebanon since the civil war of 1975-90.
“We are heading towards a real disaster,” said Hala Kilani, the doctor in charge of the dialysis department at LAUMC-Rizk hospital. She said medical teams were fighting every day to get the necessary amounts of filters needed to continue patients’ dialysis and blood tests. Even finding needles to deliver blood to dialysis patients, who are usually anemic, is a struggle.
“We have to call a million pharmacies just to find a needle or two,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s very dangerous.”
Issam Yassin, a 40-year-old man on dialysis, said he was at a loss for words. “It is very difficult and it will be a disaster if this continues.”
“For us, if there is no dialysis, there is no alternative,” he said.
Kilani, the doctor, said the current situation was worse than during the Lebanese civil war of 1975-90.
“Honestly, we have never reached the situation we find ourselves in now,” Kilani said. “If we can’t guarantee the necessary supplies, patients will die. “