The Syndicate of Hospitals in Lebanon released a statement on Friday, indicating that they are being forced to “not be able to perform most surgeries and not receive many other cases that require medical supplies.”
The reason for this, as per the statement, lies in the hospitals’ ongoing “financial disasters,” caused by the lack of U.S. dollars in the market on one hand, and, on the other hand, by the high USD/LBP exchange rates.
The need for dollars or their equivalents in Lebanese pounds stems from the fact that the importers of medical supplies are issuing their invoices for hospitals in the U.S. currency.
Not only that but they also press the hospitals to pay “at least 15 percent, at times, up to 25 percent, [of the invoices’ value] based on the parallel market exchange rate that exceeds 5,000 Lebanese pounds.”
That is in addition to the financial challenge that purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) poses on hospitals for the fact that they are not included under the central bank‘s support for medical equipment.
Furthermore, the legal necessity imposed on Lebanese hospitals to “adhere to the applicable tariffs, especially the prices of medical supplies” puts them in an even more difficult position.
The Syndicate said: “The tariffs currently in place for hospital services (accommodation, operation rooms, laboratory, radiology, etc…) have been set on the basis of the 1,500 Lebanese pounds exchange rate against the dollar for more than 20 years.”
Meanwhile, “hospitals are forced to purchase consumables ranging from food products, cleaning materials, and medical and non-medical parts at the parallel exchange rate as they do not enjoy any support.”
In light of this reality, “hospitals are faced with one option, which is to only receive critical cases.”
That is at least until importers abide by the previously agreed-upon prices for medical supplies, and the tariffs get re-evaluated to consider the aforementioned expenses of the hospitals.
On a side note, in a brief tweet post on Friday, the Ministry of Public Health stated: “Any citizen has the right to be admitted immediately to a hospital in emergency cases, subject to subsequent approval,” without providing further context.