Beirut’s hospitals are ‘on the brink of disaster’

Dr Jihad Makkouk says series of crises and surge of Covid-19 has hammered Lebanon’s health system

Lebanon’s hospitals will soon be “unable to cope” amid a succession of crises exacerbated by the explosion at Beirut’s port that destroyed many healthcare facilities, the health ministry has warned.

Dr Jihad Makkouk, head of hospitals, dispensaries, and medical professions at the Ministry of Public Health, said a surge in Covid-19 cases, which has left more than 1,000 people dead in Lebanon, has left healthcare services on the brink.

“A drastic rise in Covid-19 infections has pushed Lebanon’s hospitals to the edge of disaster,” he told a webinar organised by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, dedicated to the reconstruction of Beirut’s hospitals.

Dr Makkouk said Lebanon’s financial crisis and the explosion “that hit the country to its core” were among the factors that meant medical supplies were dwindling. The Beirut blast in August killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.

“Lebanon’s healthcare system was already struggling before several hospitals were severely damaged by the catastrophic August 4 explosion of Beirut’s port,” he said.

The official said the ministry was working to increase bed capacity and sustain essential services, but "it is becoming extremely difficult to fight alone".

“Now all the hospitals across the country are reporting shortages in vital medical supplies and many are turning away non-critical cases to conserve resources.”

Dr Makkouk said he hoped international support would help the country overcome the challenges that were resulting in Lebanese doctors and nurses leaving in their droves.

"Lebanon's hospitals, long considered among the best in the Middle East, are cracking under the country's financial crisis, struggling to pay staff, keep equipment running or even stay open with Covid-19 cases at unprecedented levels," he said.