Cri­sis econ­omy: Prog­no­sis growth

Hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in­flows spur growth in Le­banon’s health­care sec­tor

Executive Magazine - - Contents -

Per­haps the first thing refugees flee­ing a war zone need is med­i­cal at­ten­tion. It is no sur­prise, then, that Le­banese hos­pi­tals have been busier than usual since war en­gulfed Syria in 2012. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent UNDP study, in fact, in 2014, hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in­flows fo­cused on Syr­ian refugees have spurred 1.76 per­cent in ad­di­tional growth for the health­care sec­tor, ac­cord­ing to a UNDP study. That year, UN agen­cies and af­fil­i­ates sup­ported 180 pri­mary health­care cen­ters and 65 hos­pi­tals through­out Le­banon. With a swell of new pa­tients, par­tic­u­larly in 2013, hos­pi­tals have ex­pe­ri­enced pos­i­tive growth and have con­se­quently in­vested in their in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vice pro­vi­sion. “When th­ese hos­pi­tals have more busi­ness, they are go­ing to buy more med­i­cal sup­plies and more med­i­ca­tions from phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies,” says Walid Hal­las­sou, gen­eral manager of GlobeMed Le­banon. GlobeMed is the third party ad­min­is­tra­tor that UNHCR has con­tracted to help it man­age its health­care re­sponse. “They are go­ing to em­ploy more doc­tors, more nurses and so on,” he adds.

At times, health­care fa­cil­i­ties also re­ceived di­rect, in-kind aid from UN agen­cies. Over $1 mil­lion were used to pur­chase roughly 6,200 items of med­i­cal equip­ment for pri­mary health­care cen­ters in 2014 alone. Hos­pi­tals, pri­mary health­care cen­ters and even the Min­istry of Public Health also re­ceived train­ing for staff and sup­port to hire new pro­fes­sion­als — at least 81 new pro­fes­sion­als were hired with di­rect UN sup­port in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the UN.

Health­care aid to refugees and af­fected Le­banese com­mu­ni­ties has also in­cluded di­rect pro­vi­sion of med­i­ca­tion, which has sparked growth in Le­banon’s phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor. Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 Busi­ness Mon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional re­port on Le­banon’s health­care ex­pen­di­tures, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sales in Le­banon jumped from $1.3 bil­lion in 2012 to $1.46 bil­lion in 2013 — and then again to $1.59 bil­lion in 2014. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals are also play­ing a big­ger role in Le­banon’s econ­omy: drug sales as a per­cent­age of GDP in­creased from 3.05 per­cent in 2012 to 3.37 per­cent in 2014, the re­port found. As part of the sup­port to af­fected Le­banese com­mu­ni­ties, $6 mil­lion worth of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts were pur­chased by UN agen­cies and dis­trib­uted to pri­mary health­care cen­ters and hos­pi­tals. Un­for­tu­nately, nu­mer­ous phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies con­tacted by Ex­ec­u­tive — in­clud­ing Om­nipharma, Broad­Med, Om­ni­lab and Medex — ei­ther did not re­spond to re­quests to com­ment or de­clined to pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion about par­tic­u­lar growth within their com­pa­nies.

There are also a num­ber of in­ter­me­di­aries who have ex­pe­ri­enced growth as a re­sult of aid — not least of which is GlobeMed. Con­tracted by UNHCR at the end of 2013, GlobeMed man­ages the sec­ondary and ter­tiary lev­els of health­care pro­vi­sion for Syr­ian refugees and is the refugees’ point of con­tact for health­care is­sues. Part­ner­ing with UNHCR has brought mul­ti­ple di­men­sions of growth to GlobeMed.

“For an or­ga­ni­za­tion that used to serve about 500,000 lives in Le­banon to take on an­other 700,000 overnight was not an easy task,” Hal­las­sou tells Ex­ec­u­tive. “We re­cruited a lot, we opened of­fices, we bought equip­ment, we had sys­tem de­vel­op­ments to do.”

How­ever, th­ese in­vest­ments are made war­ily. De­scrib­ing UNHCR as a “high risk client,” Hal­las­sou says GlobeMed — and other firms in the health­care sec­tor — are painfully aware that their con­tracts are valid only so long as UN agen­cies con­tinue to have steady fund­ing. This pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion means that GlobeMed man­ages its growth care­fully, ap­pre­hen­sively, and on a short term ba­sis.

“Usu­ally our em­ploy­ees are on un­lim­ited con­tract[s] — now we need to re­cruit em­ploy­ees on a limited ba­sis. They are brought in as con­sul­tants or em­ploy­ees with limited con­tracts so that we pro­tect them and we pro­tect our­selves,” Hal­las­sou ad­mits. Pur­chas­ing new equip­ment to man­age the refugee work­load works the same way — GlobeMed’s man­age­ment has to con­tin­u­ously con­sider whether new sys­tems or pieces of equip­ment can be used for other projects if its UNHCR con­tract abruptly ends. Still, Hal­las­sou says, the con­tract has been worth­while from a busi­ness point of view.

That view might not ex­tend to the long term. Hal­las­sou is skep­ti­cal that the qual­ity of the health­care sys­tem as a whole in Le­banon has been buoyed by in­ter­na­tional aid. While there may well be im­prove­ments in some in­sti­tu­tions, this is not rep­re­sented across the in­dus­try. As long as hos­pi­tals and pri­mary health­care cen­ters have “weak foun­da­tions” in in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vice pro­vi­sion, he says, new equip­ment and new staff won’t boost qual­ity. The con­clu­sion is wor­ri­some: although hu­man­i­tar­ian aid money may be pro­vid­ing the sec­tor a prof­itabil­ity boost to­day, the long term im­pli­ca­tions of this cap­i­tal in­jec­tion may prove to be min­i­mal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.