Lebanon has been in a state of financial crisis for some time now. When the protests began over three months ago on Oct. 17, the country had been already reeling under debt estimated at around $86 billion or more than 150 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The country witnessed a political stalemate that pushed it further into debt, with an economic crisis considered one of the deepest financial ditches the country has fallen into since the 1975 civil war.
Private hospitals alone, accounting to 82 percent of Lebanon's healthcare capacity, have not seen a single dime from the Finance Ministry since the beginning of 2019, long before the revolution erupted.
In fact, the ministry has not paid private hospitals an estimated $1.3 billion in dues since 2011, head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals Sleiman Haroun told Human Rights Watch. Medical supplies and medicines have been difficult to purchase and staff salaries remain unpaid.
Doctors and hospitals have warned that patients may no longer be able to acquire the treatment they need, whether it be urgent or clinical.
One hospital that has been attempting to withstand the country's situation is Rahma Hospital, a rehabilitation center helping those in need since 1997 in the city of Tripoli, one of the poorest areas in Lebanon and the Arab region. With a quiet and peaceful atmosphere away from the city center, to offer patients some calmness while recovering, the hospital is still battling with paying the costs.
Directors and staff at the rehabilitation hospital believe no patient should receive poor treatment, no matter their financial situation, with the hospital itself being built on the basis of helping those in need.
"Rahma Hospital is for everyone [...] We aim to help the less fortunate who can't afford their treatment because we think everyone deserves to be treated equally, especially when it comes to health," the hospital's Rehabilitation Director, Rola Tout, told StepFeed.
The revolution affected the medical institution just like other hospitals in the country, with roadblocks blowing the biggest hit on patients' commute.
"Other than the roadblocks, most people started thinking twice about spending their money, it's like their health wasn't a priority anymore. Which is why the hospital created a charity box that helped people who aren't capable of paying for their sessions, or sometimes applying a discount to the cases who needed help financially depending on each case of course specially if we were working with kids, because when kids stop their treatment their condition can get worse," Tout explained.
The rehabilitation center helps heal the after-effects of injuries and strokes; it also hosts and cares for long-time coma patients sent to them from other hospitals.
The hospital's staff is trained in physical, speech, occupational, psycho, and psychomotor therapy. Using some of the most professional rehabilitation equipment in the country, they assist patients into getting back to their regular lifestyles and routines.
With imported utensils and medications, and the fluctuation of the dollar in the Lebanese black market, "daily expenses, equipment, bills and medicines" become a struggle, "a non-ending loop."
"We are always keeping extra medicines and daily equipment such as needles for example, in advance to avoid deficiency. However, there is always a struggle in few items such as food for example, now we have to pay for everything in cash depending on the $ rate which is somehow limiting our purchasing ability and sometimes the issue comes from the providers for not being able to provide us with what's needed due to shortage," the director explained.
Patients from all ages going through the aftermath of a stroke, multiple sclerosis, head injuries, spinal abnormalities, Parkinson's disease, and neurological disorders are welcome at the center. Those who cannot afford the treatments will find that the hospital is ready to attempt to provide them with the financial support they need.
However, one of the toughest situations the hospital faces is when neither the patient nor the center itself can afford the medicaments and care necessary for a critical condition.
"We try our best to cover the expenses needed from donations but sometimes we can't fully cover the whole expenses and this leads to a clash between the patients and the hospital," explained Tout.
"If [this crisis] isn't resolved, people will go into the hospital and die inside," Salma Assi, a spokesperson for medical equipment importers, told Human Rights Watch.
With almost 80 patients a day - 60 of whom usually fall under a more critical category - Rahma Hospital can find it difficult to come up with the financial means necessary to care for all of them. Add to that the current crisis along with delayed payments from the government.
"The main problem now is that we are living in a time when you don't know where you're going next," the director went on, "we have to live each day as its own, you can't plan further ahead because in this country every day we wake up to a new turn of events."
On a regular day, staff find that the most difficult thing to do is tell a patient and their family that there is nothing the hospital can do for them, that all is lost.
"Our motto is to always give hope because we believe those who lose hope, lose everything," declared Tout.
Now imagine having to turn patients away because you do not have the means to care for them, nor does your government. The patients become hopeless and that falls on the hospital's shoulders ... while drained ministries offer empty promises and no funding.