Lebanon Businessnews News

Hospitals operating
at near full occupancy
Shortages in intensive
care beds and nursing staff
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Occupancy rates in hospitals have reached their peak, exceeding 95 percent, according to the Syndicate of Private Hospitals.

Sleiman Haroun, Chairman of the Syndicate, said that hospitals are sometimes unable to accept all the patients or to extend their accommodation in the emergency units. This is due to the shortage in the number of beds. The number of private hospital beds decreased from 10,600, five years ago to 9,700, currently. Haroun said that several hospitals have closed and some of them have decreased their beds.

There is also a large shortage in the number of intensive care units, where there are currently 1,500 beds and there is a need for 500 additional ones. Haroun said that investors are more cautious about investing in such units because they require big investments.

Haroun said that the Syrian refugees and other foreign residents like Iraqis are increasing the demand for medical services, especially in the North and Bekaa. Life expectancy at birth increased in the last decade to 81 years. “This resulted in additional demands on the sector,” Haroun said.

According to Haroun, several incentives should be given to encourage investors to spend on the health sector. The first request is giving hospitals their financial dues on time, as most of them are registering losses because the Government is delaying the payment of financial debts. Last December (2015), the ministries of Public Health and Finance decided to pay arrears dating back to the 2000-2011 period amounting to $120 million with 10-40 percent discount, so that the final amount reached $90 million.

Another reason for delaying opening additional beds and intensive care units is the fact that there is a huge shortage in the number of nurses. There is a need for a minimum of 7,000 nurses to fulfill the demand, Haroun said. The Lebanese University should open faculties of nursing in most regions, especially in Akkar, Hermel, South, Bekaa, and Nabatieh to be able to open hospitals in these regions, he said.

The Government should also invest in increasing the number of public hospitals or activate the available beds to fulfill part of the demand.

This increase in demand will not lead hospitals to increase hospitalization tariffs, as this requires negotiation with the insurance funds. But according to Haroun, this may lead some hospitals to select the patients. There could be privilege for insurance patients more than the National Social Security Fund patients,” said Haroun.

Hospitalization expenditures reached $2.7 billion in 2015, according to the Ministry of Public Health. Expenditures on all medical services surged by 35 percent between 2012 to 2015, according to the Lebanese Franchise Association Retail Indicator.
Reported by Rania Ghanem
Date Posted: Mar 18, 2016
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