BEIRUT: The head of the Association of Private Hospitals defended the performance of Lebanon’s hospitals Tuesday, accusing state administrations of hindering the sector.
“The hospitals are continuously subject to wide criticism, but rarely does anyone point out their achievements and the various difficulties they face,” Sleiman Haroun said in a news conference at the union’s office Tuesday.
Haroun’s conference came after a meeting Monday with Health Minister Wael Abu Faour, who promised him that the ministry would pay the $80 million in overdue payments to hospitals.
The debt were incurred between 2000 and 2012, Haroun explained, as a result of the emergency treatments that the hospitals provided above the legally required ceiling.
Hospitals are legally required to provide any emergency treatment until the patient’s life is secured, but the costs due on the ministry were randomly reduced by 30 percent on the excuse of “the lack of money,” Haroun said.
He said that state institutions owed Lebanese private hospitals a total of $866 million, of which more than $333 million was due from the National Social Security Fund alone.
Haroun said that 500,000 bills had not even been audited yet by the National Social Security Fund, “which highlights the size of the administrative problems that the fund faces.”
He said he had already discussed the fund’s inefficiency with public officials, calling for administrative reform in public institutes to avoid affecting the hospitals’ services.
In this vein, he slammed the decision by the Audit Bureau that imposed a 10 percent bank deposit on hospitals engaging in contracts with the Health Ministry. The decision, he said, resulted in delaying the signing of contracts for 2014.
Touching on the ministry’s recent decision to decrease the prices of medications used in chemical treatment, Haroun said that the hospitals “have no choice but to” charge patients the difference between the ministry’s price and what the NSSF covers.
Abu Four denied after Monday’s meeting that the recent price decrease of some medications had led to the NSSF covering less of the cost, forcing citizens to pay more.
“Patients are not paying more. ... Before the price reduction, the pharmacists’ share of the overall price was very high. But some of pharmacists only used to take half of their share, allowing patients to hand in their bill to the NSSF based on the original price.”
He also said he proposed that the NSSF increase its coverage in line with the price reduction.
“I sought to resolve this issue with the NSSF management, especially since the price reduction was almost 20 percent, which means that the NSSF bill has gone down by 20 percent. Therefore, the NSSF should increase its contribution from 85 to 95 percent,” he said.
Asked about a ministry decision to automatically audit hospital invoices, Haroun said he had delivered many technical comments on the measures, but stressing his support for any financial reforms.
Separately, General Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim launched an investigation Tuesday into violations in private and public hospitals, listening to the statements from complainants and calling others for hearing sessions, the National News Agency reported