Hospitals In Lebanon Can No Longer Operate At The Official Exchange Rate

EPA | REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

The remaining traces of the long-forgotten 1,515 exchange rate for the Lebanese pound seem to be gradually fading away, the closer the end of the year gets.

Starting Thursday, the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) is reportedly switching to a new exchange rate of 3,900 LBP/USD.

This development has caused concern among the Lebanese because it was accompanied by news that all hospitals in the country would follow-suit and raise their adopted exchange rate from 1,515 to 3,900 or 4,000.

However, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan stressed in a tweet on Thursday morning that this scenario was not on the table.

On the other hand, the head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals in Lebanon, Suleiman Haroun, later said that AUBMC’s decision is the first to come, “because hospitals are no longer able to continue with this pricing.”

Haroun added that he would meet caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan later on Thursday to discuss this issue, affirming that it is impossible for hospitals to continue operating at the exchange rate of 1,515 LBP/USD.

Hospitals In Lebanon Raise Their Exchange Rate
AFP

The health sector in Lebanon has been overwhelmed by the pressure placed upon it by many factors, including the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the economic crisis, and the damage that the Beirut Port explosion caused to some hospitals.

Additionally, the mass emigration of doctors and nurses that is ongoing today is taking its toll on the hospitals, whose beds are rapidly filling up with COVID-19 patients as Lebanon’s daily case numbers continue to skyrocket.

In the near future, an anticipated problem will make healthcare in Lebanon more expensive and less accessible to the population.

The end of the central bank’s subsidies on essential items will mean that social security will no longer be able to fulfill its obligations toward people and hospitals, according to Labor Union Head Bechara El-Asmar.

Similarly, the Cooperative of Government Employees, which provides healthcare to nearly 370,000 Lebanese, will be forced to halt its service due to its budget being based on the exchange rate of 1,515.

Meanwhile, a monopoly is being created for medicines, which are, as a result, now being rationed.