BURJ AL-ARAB, Lebanon: The Health Ministry Wednesday decided to suspend its contract with a north Lebanon hospital that refused to treat a toddler who later died, as the child’s family was left reeling from the tragedy.
According to a ministry statement, Tripoli’s Dar al-Shifaa Hospital Tuesday refused to admit 22-month-old Moemin al-Mohammad “under an illegal pretext” and with full knowledge that he needed medical assistance. The ministry said the hospital’s actions violated the terms of the contract between hospitals and the ministry, and were punishable under Penal Code 567.
“The ministry decided to suspend the contract with Dar al-Shifaa Hospital in Tripoli and to follow up on the investigation in order to finalize measures [against the hospital] in line with legal procedures,” the statement said.
The child was denied treatment by several hospitals because his uninsured parents could not pay expenses upfront. His father, Khaled al-Mohammad, eventually secured the necessary funds but Moemin died upon arrival at Dar al-Shifaa.
The Mohammad family received condolences at their Burj al-Arab home in Akkar, the boy’s mother clutching a picture of her son.
Mohammad explained that he began searching for a hospital for his son at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, and his attempts lasted until Moemin’s death.
He recalled that a doctor found the child to have a high fever, and advised he be taken to the hospital immediately.
The family first approached Al-Nini Hospital, which said it were not taking patients on the Health Ministry’s expense, and they would have to pay out of pocket. Mohammad next approached Dar al-Shifaa, where he was asked for LL1,002,000. But he had only LL500,000 and his requests to bring the funds later were rebuffed.
“Since I didn’t have that much money, I took my child to Al-Kheir Hospital in Minnieh, where they said ... the hospital doesn’t have an intensive care unit for infants,” the mourning father said.
After gathering money from relatives, “I went back to admit my child [to Dar al-Shifaa]. But he died on the way, at the door of the hospital.”
“What should the poor do when we are sick,” asked Mohammad, pleading with Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil to “not let people die at hospital doors.”
For its part, Dar al-Shifaa issued a statement saying that when the child first arrived his temperature was 38.5 degrees Celsius “and his case was not urgent,” so the parents took him to Kheir Hospital where there were places available on the Health Ministry’s expense.
“At 5:30 p.m., the child and his parents returned to Dar Al-Shifaa in a private car, without coordinating with the hospital, and after taking the child into the emergency room he was found to be dead and efforts to resuscitate him failed,” the statement said.
The hospital said that like Al-Kheir Hospital, it did not have an intensive care unit for young children. It added that it had taken “many cases where after admission and treatment financial issues were resolved with patients or families. In some cases, the hospital treated them at its own expense.”
Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, who also heads the Higher Childhood Council, asked Khalil to send the results of the ministry’s investigation to his office so he can press charges. In a statement he asked that “hospital, officials, dispensaries and clinics not take into consideration financial issues when there are ... urgent cases, so that there will not be such tragic results.”
Earlier this week, the Health Ministry temporarily stopped covering the expenses of patients without private or public insurance, citing budgetary constraints. But Khalil Tuesday asked hospitals to resume admitting uninsured patients as the Finance Ministry had released the necessary funds.
Khalil tweeted Wednesday, “I pledge to follow up on the case of Moemin al-Mohammad and other similar cases with the judiciary.”