BEIRUT: Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil asked hospitals Tuesday to continue receiving state patients after a funding mix-up that threatened to end hospitalization payments was cleared up with the Finance Ministry.
Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi will sign a decree to set aside funds for hospitalization costs after the procedure was tied up in bureaucratic delays, Khalil said.
Khalil had announced Monday that his ministry would have to stop covering hospitalization costs due to a lack of funds beginning this week.
“What we announced yesterday had no political or personal motives but it reflected people’s concerns; they should not live in anxiety or worry about losing the aid given to them by the ministry,” the minister added.
Khalil said the ministry provided half the population with hospitalization services, which he called a “responsibility and duty” despite budgetary constraints.
The services partially or completely cover costs for a wide range of medical matters, including checkups, medication and operations.
“The Health Ministry will continue as of tomorrow to receive all cases requiring hospitalization in all public and private hospitals that have contracts with the Health Ministry,” Khalil announced.
He said the hold-up was due to administrative procedures and a delay in releasing the state budget which caused the funding snag to occur. Khalil stressed that the lack of funds was not due to political wrangling and that the Finance Ministry had moved quickly to fix the problem.
The Health Ministry has long struggled with its national health care system. Many private hospitals stopped accepting patients covered by a public care plan last year after the government delayed paying their bills.
In January, the Health Ministry launched a campaign to expand the national health care system and cover more people who weren’t able to afford it themselves.
The cash-strapped Health Ministry is also being tasked with helping international aid bodies care for Syrian refugees and their effects on Lebanese communities.
Khalil also spoke at Tuesday’s news conference about the ministry’s efforts to help refugees.
He said there had been a large number of cases of the measles reported due to the high number of refugees in the country and the ministry was increasing vaccination campaigns in areas with many refugees.
“These campaigns were wide-ranging and comprehensive, and they included all Lebanese and Syrian children in those regions with the cooperation of UNICEF,” Khalil added.
“Some children who had not been vaccinated were placed in social circumstances ... [involving] a large number of people and consequently they contracted the measles.”
There are over 283,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon receiving aid from the United Nations, according to the U.N., and their increasingly poor living conditions have led to the outbreak of skin infections as well as other diseases.
Khalil asked all doctors working in areas with many refugees to report any cases of the measles to the ministry.