Attempting To Bring Affordable Medicine To Every Lebanese And Refugee in Lebanon

As I’m starting my career in medicine in Lebanon, I noticed that the biggest hurdle facing patients is accessibility. This can take many forms. For the few that I serve at the tertiary center where I work, such issues are second rate: many of them can afford the healthcare provided at my institution and wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the thought that there are actually others in their country who are not as fortunate.

But the truth is that the healthcare sector in Lebanon is a tragedy. The numbers speak for themselves: Almost half of the Lebanese populace has no other means of coverage other than the Ministry of Health, whose budget is less than 5% of the total country’s budget. So what happens when that budget runs out, which happens ever so often? Over 40% of the Lebanese population finds hospital doors closing in their faces, as our news outlets race to pick up the media scoop without actually delving into the issue and finding out why it’s an issue in the first place.

To try and break this cycle, a bunch of doctors from the University of Balamand and the American University of Beirut, along with a few of their colleagues in other fields, have teamed up to attempt and get affordable healthcare to every Lebanese out there, regardless of income range and of geographical location.

It doesn’t matter whether that Lebanese can afford hospital entry or not; in a lot of the case a simple visit to a doctor can suffice to diagnose and treat a particular issue. It’s getting access to a decent doctor that’s the problem, and, when access is available, actually being able to afford the fees.

In a project launched on Zoomaal (link), the aforementioned Lebanese doctors are trying to change that reality to the best of their capacities.

They are creating a platform that allows the following:

  • Patients to get in direct contact with real life doctors for minimal fees, have their histories taken and maybe even get management.
  • Allow those patients to be visited by doctors and get examined and assessed also for minimal fees.

To achieve this, a phone call, video call or a house visit can be arranged. The details are all at this link.

This is the first attempt that I can think of by any Lebanese entity to bring healthcare to the entirety of the Lebanese populace, regardless of income and regardless of geographical constraints. This project is trying to do what the Lebanese government has failed to do: actually care about those who need it most and who don’t have the same amenities that should be a given right in the beginning of 2016.

In a country of over 4 million people, and more than 2 million refugees, having most of your population not having access to healthcare is a disgrace. It’s a shame it’s not as headline grabbing though as Mia Khalifa being the top pornstar in the world or Jbeil’s Christmas tree being listed somewhere. That would’ve gotten people interested.

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Are We Seriously Getting Another Mall in Dbayyeh?

Future waterfront city beirut

Waterfront City is breaking ground. Parks are being built. New complexes have their plans set in motion. Previous projects are being continued.

That mass of “new” land bordering the Dbayyeh highway will turn into a whole new town in the coming few years, apartment buildings and all. Great news for Lebanon’s real estate market, definitely. Sad news for those who take the marine road to escape the insurmountable traffic during their commute.

Waterfront City is also getting its bonafide mall with City Centre, whose first branch opened up next to Beirut recently, beginning its constructions plans as per Gino’s Blog.

Of course, such a project wouldn’t be happening hadn’t malls been possibly the only thing, apart from restaurants, taking off in the country lately. They get business. People like to go to them. They open up and cater to the demand. Al Futtaim’s earlier Beirut City Centre, despite it being almost a carbon copy of an Emirati mall, is taking off well. Or at least that’s what the constant crowds in it suggest.

The question to ask, though, is when’s the time to say enough is enough, that malls taking off isn’t the only argument behind them springing up whenever, wherever, sporadically and without any form of organization and regulation?

Dbayyeh has reached a point that can be called: extreme mall saturation. Just look at that place. Next to future Dbayyeh City Centre, you can find LeMall, ABC Dbayyeh and Blueberry Square, which is basically a big food court. There’s also a huge Spinneys next to them. And they all exist in an area which is quite tiny. Stretching the scope just one bit reveals yet another huge mall, at one point Lebanon’s biggest.

All of these malls share access through the same highway. They serve a city and its suburbs which already have enough malls, clearly another example of the economic centralization the country has and which I’ve previously written about here.

With the advent of Waterfront City and all the new tenants that will inhabit it, as well as the “attractions” that will be available there, the bottleneck effect of the Lebanese infrastructure, especially when it comes to the Dbayyeh area, will become even tighter.  Waterfront City may be advertised as a futuristic approach to what Lebanon can offer, and perhaps it is, but – like much of those “futuristic” areas – the non-futirstic parts often have a reality to face. That reality is that of unbelievable traffic in and out of Beirut and I’m sure no studies will be done about how to work with the traffic that another addition to that area will bring. It’s a reality of poor infrastructure to support such projects – looking at a turned off ABC due to the electricity cut is proof enough. It’s a reality of shops that are closing down because they are being spread way too thin in a country whose economical situation isn’t that efficient. And this reality is the one at the top of my head.

The fact that malls take off in Lebanon is no longer a good enough argument to have them pop up so often in an area that is so restricted. Of course malls are going to take off it they’re the only thing being built to provide people with what they might need. Of course they will take off if all the country’s decent and new cinemas are in them. Of course they will take off if all new restaurants are opening in them. Of course they will take off when their advent kills all the other options that you can do.

People will take in what is given to them – why don’t investments in the country turn into elements that are more sustainable such as technology, industry, education, healthcare? Oh never mind – those are not as cool as a brand new flashy mall with an American food chain moving in next door.

We are slowly but surely morphing the Lebanese lifestyle into something that is pure khaleeji. Perhaps it’s high time we stop making fun of their habits because we won’t be much different soon enough. I’m not an anti-mall person. But we’re at a point where some contractor who gets the chance to do so will actually turn the area in Dbayyeh between ABC and LeMall into another mall while the entire country North of that is as dead as a brick.

I played a little game with my colleagues and friends today. I told them a new City Centre was being built and asked them to guess the area. They named Tripoli, Saida, Beirut, Batroun, Jbeil. When I told them it’s Dbayyeh, the unanimous response was: are they freaking kidding me?

I guess that’s that.