Long queues in front of public medical centers in Raqqa
Raqqa – Hussam al-Omar
In the early morning hours, Naseema al-Hassan, 33, accompanied her malnourished three-year-old to al-Sawsan Hospital in the northeastern city of Raqqa, waiting at its gate until the start of the official working hours.
Naseema was not the only one who was waiting there. In front of the building, dozens of women, children, and some of the men accompanying them were waiting to receive medical examinations and some medicines that were given to them free of charge.
The high costs of treatment and medicine prices drive patients of Raqqa, which is under the control of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), to wait for long hours in front of free treatment centers in the city and its countryside.
A repeated scene in Raqqa
Patients, especially women and children, do not necessarily wait in front of specific hospitals, clinics, or health centers for free treatment in Raqqa and its countryside, as there are 27 health centers and clinics and four public hospitals within the city’s neighborhoods, namely the National Hospital, al-Hilal Hospital, al-Sawsan Hospital, and the Children Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital.
Health centers and clinics provide free treatment and certain types of medicines such as analgesics and antipyretics for children and nutritional supplements for pregnant and lactating women.
According to patients that Enab Baladi has met, the cost of treatment has become high. This is not limited to medical examinations; rather, it also includes surgeries, natural and cesarean deliveries, infant incubators, medical analyses, and x-rays.
Alaa Hasso, 30, is monitoring her pregnancy at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Raqqa after being instructed by the doctor to monitor and follow up on the fetus’s condition due to the presence of fibers in the womb.
Hasso said that she does not have a choice but to wait for hours in front of the hospital that provides services to patients for free because she and her husband cannot afford the costs of pregnancy monitoring and treatment. She also said that, according to doctors’ estimates, she would undergo a cesarean section in the hospital at the end of her pregnancy in order to preserve the health of the fetus.
A cesarean section costs about 100 US dollars in Raqqa, while a natural birth is about a quarter of that cost. Doctors’ examination fees vary according to the doctor’s specialization and the examination equipment they own but start at 10,000 Syrian pounds, in addition to a significant increase in treatment fees in private hospitals.
The population of Raqqa exceeds 800,000 people, most of whom are facing poor living conditions and successive economic crises, along with low and limited sources of income and mismanagement of crises by the Autonomous Administration that controls the city and most of the geography of the Syrian Jazira and the Euphrates Valley.
Overcrowding is “normal”
According to a member of the Raqqa Civil Council’s Health Committee, overcrowding in front of the free health centers in Raqqa is only normal in an area that suffers from such bad economic conditions.
The member of the Health Committee, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to make media statements, said the region’s lack of a health-care system complicated matters and increased overcrowding in front of free health centers.
The said member of the committee explained that the creation of a health-care system could actually improve the city’s health sector by increasing the number of health centers and improving their working mechanisms, and monitoring hospitals and private health institutions and the services they provide, and the fees they charge.
On 5 March, the Health Authority of the Autonomous Administration introduced the draft law of health and health system for discussion during the Authority’s first conference that was held in Raqqa.
North Press Agency quoted the co-chair of the Health Authority, Joan Mustafa, as saying that “the health and health system law will be discussed with all workers in this sector, as well as any institutions or persons related to the health sector.”
He pointed out that the health law consists of ten provisions that are divided into several sections and chapters, outlining citizens’ health rights and the duties of the Health Authority and its affiliated institutions towards the population in northern and eastern Syria.
The large medical needs of the population, especially in light of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, have put pressure on medical personnel in the city of Raqqa, given that the number of workers in the sector is few. This is exacerbated by difficulties in terms of securing funding and providing quality devices and equipment.
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