Medicine in Lebanon: The VVVVIP Patients

The following are bits and pieces of things several of my medical student colleagues and I, at many Lebanese hospitals across the country, have lived over the past few weeks. 

“What do you mean I have to deliver in third class? I DON’T DELIVER IN THIRD CLASS.”

Beautiful thing to wake up to in the morning, right? Well, such things are not fiction – they are every day reality in Lebanese hospitals. The woman in question was very very pregnant to say the least. She was also very very angry. Why? Because two emergency C-sections had taken up the first class beds she was promised to welcome her bundle of sunshine into the world.

“We couldn’t help it,” the nurse pleaded. “Those two women just came here in labor!” The nurse was almost begging as I stood there watching.

“I don’t give a shit.” The woman shrieked. “I want first class – I am not a person who can deliver a baby in third class. Take them to third class, they already delivered.”

A few phone calls later, that woman got her way. I guess some vaginas are more precious than others. Literally.

The separate classes in the Lebanese social hierarchy also reflect in its hospitals. There’s really very few things that hospitals can do. They accommodate what they can given how messed up and archaic our health sector financing is. What is bad, however, is the sense with which some people view medicine in this country: it’s not a human right that should be guaranteed to everyone. It’s a privilege, a luxury that only they should be entitled to.

“My ovaries hurt.” I was staring at the face of a supposed emergency condition who had just presented to the emergency room. I could see sunscreen all over her body. She was definitely tanning a few minutes earlier.

“How are your ovaries hurting you exactly?” I had no idea how ovaries could actually hurt a person, not to mention how a person would know where their ovaries actually are. When had the pain started? Well, the pain had happened 6 months ago and had died since but she wanted to know why that pain happened then… now. Bref, there was absolutely nothing urgent with her. But she knew enough people and had enough resources to take away physicians from places where they could be needed and keep them busy for a couple of hours in order to make sure her ovaries are perfect.

And then there are those patients who are so important they book two first class rooms because, you know, what if they got visitors? Can you imagine hosting them in one first class room? They are the patients who are so revered their treating physicians would drag themselves out of bed at times they shouldn’t be at the hospital just to do an exam that I, as a medical student, should be doing – just because it’s that particular patient. Those are the patients who are even treated differently in operating rooms just because they can enforce such levels of fear: “be careful with her… she’s important.” They are the patients on whom we don’t learn simply because they would get “too annoyed” to have that many students in their room. So no one enter please.” That vagina glows of gold, I was told.

Those are the super duper very very important patients that come to Lebanese hospitals: patients whose medical cases are nothing more than mundane, simple and even boring… patients who can turn those cases into a matter of national security. And there’s nothing you can do but smile and the most professional individual that you can be be while you secretly hate on the system that hammers hospitals and medical education alike.

3 thoughts on “Medicine in Lebanon: The VVVVIP Patients

  1. Pingback: Medicine in Lebanon: The VVVVIP Patients | Ned Hamson Second Line View of the News

  2. On another note, I am soon to be facing my first experience with hospitals and the medical facilities of Lebanon (only thing i’ve ever had to do was some random visit to the doctor’s or a blood test) I use my own income to pay for everything so I don’t have my mommy and daddy’s financial support.
    What I’m about to do is a very simple basic procedure, but so far my bills have amounted to the following in less than two weeks:
    – Doctor’s Bill: 40$
    – Medicine: around 80$
    – X-Rays: 20$
    – Blood test: 30$
    Still have to pay:
    – Hospital Bills: which will amount to around 100$ after NSSF reimbursements
    – Additional medicine post-op

    Rounding-up excluding the latter amounts to 250$ for a very basic simple procedure. Can we just compare that number to the minimum wage at the moment? Imagine a family of 4 where the dad earns minimum wage and the mom does’t work. What would they do if one of their kids had to undergo a similar procedure? Or a more costly one?

    I was doing my blood test today and I overheard the following:
    – A couple was asked to pay 10000LL for their test. The couple froze and took some time to think about it
    – Another guy was told the insurance had rejected his Cholesterol, LDL, HDL tests and would have to pay an additional sum of money. The lab lady actually asked him if he wanted to do them. Seems even with insurance, you still have to pay some more. And the fact she asked this question meant people might say no to this!

    Even with NSSF and insurance medical bills can be huge for lower-income families, which meant people might actually have to pass on certain things concerning their health! Truly outrageous!

    What is even more outrageous is the fact that that lady in your post should be kissing the ground that she was to be admitted at the hospital not having the nerve to argue for a first-class room!



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