Sat 06 Jun 2020

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Health inequality gap is growing in Homs under control of al-Assad

Basil al-Assad Hospital in the city of Homs - 2018 (Souriana)

Basil al-Assad Hospital in the city of Homs - 2018 (Souriana)

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The free medical services that are provided by the government of the Syrian regime have been partially absent from the province of Homs, which had seen multiple military events since 2011 until the Syrian regime fully recaptured it within the 2018 reconciliation agreement in the northern countryside of Homs.  

The health-care facilities, mainly the hospitals, were damaged or destroyed by bombs. With the complete destruction of the city’s “ National Hospital,” the Ministry of Health failed to provide sufficient health-care services through the remaining public health-care facilities, including three public hospitals, a general clinic, and a military hospital. On the other hand, 13 private hospitals are functioning in the area. 

Seeking the right medical treatment and appropriate health care has turned to be an arduous journey for the residents of Homs, amid a shortage of adequate health services. In addition, citizens are exploited by the greed of private hospitals because Homs’s Health Directorate has overlooked the high bills charged by private hospitals due to its inability to provide an alternative.

Shortages of medicines and specialist doctors

The Health Directorate of Homs opened the “al-Walid Hospital” in the district of al-Waer district, on 15 November 2018, and equipped it with 150 beds, ten of which are for intensive care units. Still, the hospital faces a shortage of medical personnel and specialist doctors who provide medical services and regular follow-up of patients.

Abdul Razzaq Kassah, a patient from the town of Talbisa, was forced to enter the “ al-Walid Hospital” after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Still, he did not receive the appropriate health care needed for his medical problem. 

Kassah talked to Enab Baladi about his three-day inpatient hospital stay; he said that a specialist doctor did not examine him during his stay in the hospital. Besides, Kassah’s supervising doctor wrote to him the treatment plan that was supposed to be applied by doctors and nurses and asked him for some medications and injections.

Kassah highlighted that some nurses began to steal the medicine he bought from a pharmacy outside the hospital, because there is no medicine in the hospital, indicating that the hospital lacks even a Diclofenac injection (a type of analgesic injection).

The medical staff in the public hospitals of Homs are limited to the resident doctorspeople with underlying medical graduate degrees awarded by the public universities, and they typically spend three years as resident doctors before they get their specialization in the branch selected.

Nour, a newly graduated doctor, was assigned in the “ al-Walid Hospital” as a resident doctor. She described  the situation there as “very horrible.” 

Nour, who refused to be fully named to maintain her professional life, said that most doctors in public hospitals are recent graduates of medical schools, stressing that those qualified doctors with good experience have left the country or contracted with private hospitals, as the doctor’s salary in the public hospital does not exceed the fare of performing one operation in any private hospital.

Exorbitant fees for treatment in private hospitals 

The lack of medical services provided by public hospitals has given way to private hospitals to take the lead in the list of health facilities functioning in the province of Homs. Despite the high fees charged by those private hospitals for their services to patients, these hospitals also suffer from a lack of professional medical personnel, including highly skilled doctors, who left the country to seek better opportunities.

A single hospital stay can cost a patient from 8,000 to 15,000 Syrian pounds  ( SYP- around 6 to 11.7 USD). Besides, staying at an intensive care bed for one day is estimated to be between 35,000 and 60,000 SYP ( nearly between 27 and 50 USD). Not to mention that the private hospitals request the patient’s guardian to buy the medicine and blood transfusion bags at his/her own expenses from outside the hospitals, according to the patient Kassah.

Kassah was treated in “the Alreaya Atebeyah” private hospital after he left the “al-Walid” public hospital for its poor medical services, but he paid 80,000 SYP (62.5 USD) for two-days of hospitalization. The cost is considered high compared to what most patients pay.  According to Kassah, the performance and health services of “the Alreaya Atebeyah” private hospital are ranked “ middle.” Kassah paid for some analysis, images, and hospital stay, indicating that he bought his medicines from a pharmacy. 

Hospitals for upper-class patients 

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent Hospital in Homs is one of the highest-fee hospitals compared to the rest of the hospitals in the province, and the hospital claims that the hospital profits go to the Red Crescent Fund.

Staying at Syrian Arab Red Crescent Hospital’s bed reached 25,000 SYP (19.5 USD) while staying at an intensive care bed for one day costs a patient 75,000 (58.5 USD). The hospital apologizes for not receiving any case before depositing 100,000 SYP (78 USD) as an “opening account” at the hospital,  a nurse working in the city, refused to mention his name for fear of losing his job, told Enab Baladi.

The nurse confirmed that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Hospital is assigned to treat upper-class patients and VIPs.  The medical treatment is restricted to people in power and well-known wealthy families, while the rest of the citizens are left to search for reliable medical services in the province, at prices commensurate with their financial conditions.

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