Lebanon News

Hariri Hospital back to work, paychecks in 24 hours

Employees at Rafik Hariri University Hospital protest in Beirut.(The Daily Star/File/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour promised Tuesday to pay salaries to Hariri Hospital staff in the next 24 hours, resolving the 8-day strike that had paralyzed services at the medical facility.

Staff at the state-run Rafik Hariri Hospital in Beirut resumed work Tuesday after meeting Abu Faour, who promised that their back wages would not be delayed any further.

“In 24 hours from now, the employee’s dues starting [April 2014] will be paid, as well as the unpaid remains from 2012 and 2013,” Basam Akoum, a representative of the workers, said at a news conference.

Employees had called for a “Day of Rage” Tuesday over the unpaid wages but called off the protest after meeting with Faour.

“The meeting was good and honest, and things were discussed deliberately,” Akoum said. “We had been treated in an inacceptable manner, and all what we were asking for is to receive our rights.”

The staff rebuffed all accusations of holding the hospital and the patients hostage.

“We totally refuse [such accusations], because we are the parents of the patients and their brothers,” Akoum said. “We are the hospital whose problems we are suffering from, thus we cannot be thumping ourselves.”

Employees repeated their complaints about the lack of medical equipment, which has prevented them from providing patients with many services, including emergency treatments.

“No one should think that we are depriving the Lebanese people and the poor among them from their right to health care, especially to emergency care,” the statement said. “We will provide all the services for which we have the necessary equipment.”

The staff’s statement highlighted its “absolute readiness to cooperate with the ministry’s plan to pick up the hospital.”

This is as long as the plan is transparent and respects both the employees' rights and the institution’s requirements for sustainability, the statement explained.

Last month, the government approved a plan proposed by Abu Faour to tackle the mounting problems facing the hospital, after media reports alleged corruption in the medical facility, which was inaugurated in 2004.

The facility, which is suffering from a severe cash flow problem, is operating way below its capacity of 400 to 450 beds.

The Cabinet last week appointed Faisal Shatila as the new chief of the board of directors for the hospital, following the resignation of the former head, Dr. Wassim al-Wazzan.

Abu Faour warned earlier this year that the hospital might be closed due to its high budget deficit. However, he later announced that the public institution would be able to settle all its debts.

The Cabinet has also agreed to provide the hospital with a loan of around LL20 billion ($13.3 million).





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