EU ex­tends help­ing hand on health care

Ini­tia­tive seeks to as­sist refugees, Le­banese; in­cludes stan­dard­ized pric­ing

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Adam Muro

BURJ HAMMOUD, Le­banon: A pro­gram for re­duc­ing out-of­pocket spend­ing on health care for refugees and Le­banese cit­i­zens was launched Wed­nes­day by the Euro­pean Union at a pri­mary care fa­cil­ity in Burj Hammoud.

EU Am­bas­sador to Le­banon Christina Lassen was joined by of­fi­cials from the Le­banese gov­ern­ment and NGOs, as well as health care pro­fes­sion­als, at the Howard Karagheu­sian Medico-So­cial Cen­ter to in­tro­duce the pro­gram, ti­tled “Re­duc­ing eco­nomic bar­ri­ers to ac­cess­ing health care ser­vices in Le­banon.”

“The aim of this new pack­age is to make sure that peo­ple in need of health care will re­ceive qual­ity ser­vices across the coun­try,” Lassen said.

The ini­tia­tive is funded by a 32 mil­lion euro ($37.7 mil­lion) grant from the EU’s Re­gional Trust Fund and is part of larger pack­age of 70 mil­lion eu­ros from the fund to sup­port the Le­banese pub­lic health care sys­tem. The pro­gram seeks to as­sist both Syr­ian and Pales­tinian refugees in Le­banon as well as Le­banese cit­i­zens. The U.N. refugee agency has pro­vided its sup­port, while the In­ter­na­tional Medical Corps and its part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions will work to­ward the ini­tia­tive’s im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The pro­gram will in­tro­duce a flat-fee model of health care pric­ing, in which medical con­sul­ta­tion fees will be sub­si­dized and costs for di­ag­nos­tic and lab tests will be waived en­tirely. The or­ga­ni­za­tions hope that stan­dard­ized pric­ing for care will have the added ben­e­fit of eas­ing ten­sions be­tween Le­banese and refugee com­mu­ni­ties.

“From the very be­gin­ning, the idea was not to cre­ate a par­al­lel struc­ture for the refugees, but on the con­trary, to help the state of Le­banon to re­spond to the cri­sis through the pub­lic ser­vices, to re­in­force them and to help cre­ate more in­fra­struc­ture,” UNHCR rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mireille Gi­rard said dur­ing a speech at the event. “This is some­thing that will [en­dure] well af­ter the cri­sis has fin­ished,” she said.

Care­taker Health Min­is­ter Ghas­san Has­bani agreed, em­pha­siz­ing that the min­istry is the only of­fi­cial body in Le­banon that can le­git­i­mately or­ga­nize pub­lic health.

Cost re­duc­tion mea­sures are sorely needed for refugees, ac­cord­ing to the 2017 U.N. Vul­ner­a­bil­ity As­sess­ment of Syr­ian Refugees in Le­banon.

The study found that 76 per­cent of Syr­ian refugees are liv­ing be­low the poverty line and 38 per­cent of their in­come is spent on health care.

Serop Oha­nian, who di­rects the Karagheu­sian clinic, said his ex­pe­ri­ence shows the strain on the Le­banese health care sec­tor has in­creased. “We used to see 500 pa­tients per month in 2005,” Oha­nian said. “Now we are see­ing 3,500 pa­tients per month and two-thirds of these pa­tients are not Le­banese.”

Dr. Samer Saade, 29, has been a pe­di­a­tri­cian at the Karagheu­sian clinic for three months.

He said more than 80 per­cent of his pa­tients are Syr­ian.

“They are abroad, away from their coun­try, in poor con­di­tions, with no ma­te­ri­als and no medical ser­vices ex­cept what we of­fer,” he said. “They might go back, but some of them have es­tab­lished them­selves here so I think some will stay.”

‘The idea was not to cre­ate a par­al­lel struc­ture for refugees’

The pres­ence of around 1 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees in Le­banon due to the con­flict has put pres­sure on the coun­try’s al­ready ailing in­fra­struc­ture and econ­omy.

A seg­ment of the Le­banese po­lit­i­cal class has called for Syr­ian refugees to re­turn to their home­land as soon as pos­si­ble, while mem­bers of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity have said con­di­tions are not yet con­ducive for vol­un­tary repa­tri­a­tion in safety and dig­nity.

How­ever, Lassen noted that “we don’t see this as an in­def­i­nite is­sue, we see this is as some­thing that is time-lim­ited,” when asked if the EU would con­tinue to fi­nan­cially sup­port pub­lic health in Le­banon if Syr­ian refugees were un­able to re­turn in the near fu­ture.

“Un­til these peo­ple can go back, we need to make sure they are taken care of.”

Oha­nian, right, speaks with Has­bani and Lassen. Has­bani says the min­istry is the only of­fi­cial body that can le­git­i­mately or­ga­nize Le­banon’s pub­lic health.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.