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Lebanon's economic crisis left hospitals in need of supplies to combat COVID19

ANI  |  Middle East 

Severe dollar shortages and unregulated bank policies since September last year have left hospitals and medical supplies providers unable to import crucial equipment to treat coronavirus patients and protect medical workers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report based on interviews with medical professionals, officials and entrepreneurs in the field.

"Lebanon's financial crisis has resulted in a scarcity of medical supplies necessary to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, Human Rights Watch said today. Hospital staff and nurses have raised concerns about the failure of the government and hospitals to adequately staff hospitals and protect staff from infection. The Lebanese government is obligated to ensure everyone's right to health, including access to essential medical care and treatment of disease," HRW said in a statement.

The Central Bank left it to private banks to individually deal with their crises, which led banks to put a limit on money sent abroad or withdrawn in person. This has hampered importers' ability to buy expensive ventilators from abroad -- ventilators are crucial for coronavirus patients in critical condition and have become a precious commodity during the pandemic.

"For three months now, we have been saying that we are running out of disposables and sounding the alarm," Salma Assi, a spokeswoman for medical equipment importers said, accusing Lebanon's Central Bank of negligence.

In addition to severe shortages of masks, gloves and other supplies, public hospitals have seen shrinking financial support from the state, which has resulted in layoffs of nursing staff, HRW said, quoting head of Order of Nurses Mirna Doumit.

This has increased the workload on an already stretched health care workforce, with some hospitals having up to 20 patients per nurse, according to Doumit.

"Now on top of that, even though nurses are on the front line, if any nurse is suspected of having coronavirus, they are being asked to self-quarantine without pay," Doumit was quoted as saying in the report.

Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at HRW, recognized Lebanon's swift measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 but said supplies must be brought in to help avoid an overwhelmed health care system.

"The Lebanese government has taken swift and broad measures that bought it time, but its ability to manage the outbreak will depend on how it uses this time to secure necessary supplies and provide health care workers with the resources they need," Stork said.

Lebanon went into virtual lockdown as the number of cases in the country reached the hundreds, closing all air, land and sea borders and imposing a curfew on citizens.

As of Monday, Lebanon counts 256 cases nationwide with four deaths and eight recoveries.

Lebanon has so far received aid shipments from China and the Health Organization, and the government has allocated $39 million from a previous Bank loan to prepare hospitals to deal with the coronavirus.

Severe dollar shortages and unregulated bank policies since September last year have left hospitals and medical supplies providers unable to import crucial equipment to treat coronavirus patients and protect medical workers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report based on interviews with medical professionals, officials, and entrepreneurs in the field.

"Lebanon's financial crisis has resulted in a scarcity of medical supplies necessary to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, Human Rights Watch said today. Hospital staff and nurses have raised concerns about the failure of the government and hospitals to adequately staff hospitals and protect staff from infection. The Lebanese government is obligated to ensure everyone's right to health, including access to essential medical care and treatment of disease," HRW said in a statement.

The Central Bank left it to private banks to individually deal with their crises, which led banks to put a limit on money sent abroad or withdrawn in person. This has hampered importers' ability to buy expensive ventilators from abroad -- ventilators are crucial for coronavirus patients in critical condition and have become a precious commodity during the pandemic.

"For three months now, we have been saying that we are running out of disposables and sounding the alarm," Salma Assi, a spokeswoman for medical equipment importers said, accusing Lebanon's Central Bank of negligence.

In addition to severe shortages of masks, gloves and other supplies, public hospitals have seen shrinking financial support from the state, which has resulted in layoffs of nursing staff, HRW said, quoting the head of Order of Nurses Mirna Doumit.

This has increased the workload on an already stretched health care workforce, with some hospitals having up to 20 patients per nurse, according to Doumit.

"Now on top of that, even though nurses are on the front line, if any nurse is suspected of having coronavirus, they are being asked to self-quarantine without pay," Doumit was quoted as saying in the report.

Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at HRW, recognized Lebanon's swift measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 but said supplies must be brought in to help avoid an overwhelmed health care system.

"The Lebanese government has taken swift and broad measures that bought it time, but its ability to manage the outbreak will depend on how it uses this time to secure necessary supplies and provide health care workers with the resources they need," Stork said.

Lebanon went into virtual lockdown as the number of cases in the country reached the hundreds, closing all air, land and sea borders and imposing a curfew on citizens.

As of Monday, Lebanon counts 256 cases nationwide with four deaths and eight recoveries.

Lebanon has so far received aid shipments from China and the Health Organization, and the government has allocated $39 million from a previous World Bank loan to prepare hospitals to deal with the coronavirus.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, March 24 2020. 17:27 IST
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