In Lebanon, the ordeal of cancer patients to pay for care

By Hélène Sallon

Posted today at 2:00 p.m.

The puny figure of Ali Hamdane, wrapped in warm pajamas and a dressing gown, his emaciated face wearing a woolen cap stand out in the twilight. Exhausted and bitter, the man hushes up in the old apartment he rents in the Chiyah district of Beirut since being released from the hospital after a stay of one month and five days. “The amount I have to pay is unimaginable: 100 million Lebanese pounds ($ 4000 at black market rate). If I had had that amount, I would have bought a house. Associations and doctors have made donations, I still have 21 million to pay ”, says the 30-year-old security guard, whose monthly salary is just one million Lebanese pounds (LL).

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers In Lebanon, “the state is failing” in the face of the crisis

Five years ago, Ali Hamdane was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, stage 4. Orphan and single, he had so far managed to pay for chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions, as well than the drugs he takes to strengthen his immune system, endure pain and, more recently, treat his diabetes. “My boss as well as doctors and the Barbara Nassar association helped me pay the part not reimbursed by the Health Insurance Fund”, he said.

Ali Hamdane at his home in Chiyah neighborhood, Beirut, Lebanon, November 25, 2021.

He was hospitalized in November with pain in his spleen, where cancer cells have metastasized, and a tear in the intestine. He must find 25 million additional LL to perform radiotherapy sessions. “It’s the first time that I can’t pay for everything. I can no longer ask my boss and the doctors, I have already emptied their pockets. I am ashamed “, says Ali Hamdane.

“Ineligible prices”

The health sector has been drawn into Lebanon’s financial and economic wreck. With the devaluation of the Lebanese pound against the dollar, the prices of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment – mostly imported – have soared. The state, whose coffers are empty, can no longer subsidize imports. Shortages have been increasing since the summer. Care and hospitalizations are now billed at the rate charged on the black market, while health insurance funds still reimburse them at the pre-crisis exchange rate, sixteen times lower. And the Lebanese, whose salaries are worth nothing, no longer have enough to pay the difference.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers In Syria and Lebanon, foreign exchange aid, windfall for banking systems in crisis

The new Minister of Health, Dr Firas Abiad, obtained a budget from the central bank (BDL) to maintain the subsidies on cancer treatments. After several months of stoppage, imports were able to resume. “The ministry has promised that there will be a budget of $ 25 million per month for drugs, which should cover needs estimated at $ 250 million per year. Things are already getting better, but there are still a lot of drugs that cannot be found in Lebanon. And, even when patients only have 5% of the price to pay, it is still very expensive ”, laments Hany Nassar, a former professor of philosophy who created the Barbara Nassar association in 2014, in memory of his late wife. Among the 28,500 adults with cancer in Lebanon, more and more are asking her to pay for care and treatment, and to bring in medicines from abroad.

You have 54.14% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.

source site-29

Leave a Reply