BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour Wednesday launched a new program to automatically audit invoices from contracted hospitals, hailing the move as a step forward for financial transparency.
“This new program is aimed at reforming public administration in general and the Health Ministry in particular,” Abu Faour said at a news conference. “We hope that proper implementation will curtail losses in hospitalization bills that amount to LL420 billion [$278 million] annually,” he added.
Abu Faour said the automated system would prevent bill being meddled with or charges being inflated by hospitals.
The minister said the system was “designed to detect any overrated invoices,” noting that in the past the ministry was only able to conduct a random verification of 10 percent of the bills.
He warned that punitive measures would be taken against hospitals found to be trying to embezzle government funds.
“Any overvalued bill that exceeds standard charges will lead to sanctions for the hospital and the slashing of all invoices submitted by that hospital by 70 percent.”
Abu Faour said he hoped the new system would result in more transparent dealings between the ministry and hospitals, in addition to reducing the ministry’s bill for treating hospitalized patients.
In a related development, the Congregation of Physicians in Lebanon applauded the ministry’s move, calling on Abu Faour to deal firmly with unruly hospitals – notably university hospitals, which it accused of refusing to take in patients covered by social security.
Despite its superior services compared with neighboring countries, Lebanon’s health care sector has been rife with corruption. Authorities have been grappling to introduce reforms to the sector but implementation has been slow.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 03, 2014, on page 4.