Idlib’s Doctors Turning into Merchants

Idlib’s Doctors Turning into Merchants
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Faced with his wife’s pain as she was about to give birth to their firstborn, 38 year old Hussam was forced to take her to a private hospital in Kafr Nabl. The first thing the hospital’s staff did after the specialised doctor examined his wife was asking him to pay the costs of the caesarean section to which his wife would be subjected shortly. After suffering from shrapnel that caused the amputation of his right arm Hussam is one of hundreds of Syrian amputees resulting from the war. Subsequently, he is suffering from extremely bad financial circumstances amidst miserable living conditions.



He said, “I was asked to pay 35,000 Syrian Pounds (SP) for my wife’s operation, which hadn’t been performed yet, and it was a large amount of money that I did not expect nor was I prepared for it.” Managing the situation and finding the money bewildered Hussam. He had collected 20,000 SP for the caesarean operation and gave it to them, promising to pay the rest after the birth. However, the accountant was not satisfied and explained that it was his job to receive the full amount. Hussam no longer knew what to do, so a relative of his recommended going to a charitable society in the region in the hope that they would help him. It was not easy for him to ask for help like a beggar. However, he preferred requesting help to the deteriorating situation of his wife who was still in pain.


Hussam received a response from Al-Huda charitable society, which helped him and provided him with the required amount of money, and he paid it to the hospital. The operation was performed and his wife gave birth to a baby boy. Despite his elation, some questions were bothering him. He thought, “Isn’t the medical profession in particular purely humanitarian, and those who are involved in it required to provide assistance to people and alleviate their pain? Is the task of these doctors only collecting riches from desperate citizens fatigued by the war?!”



On the other hand, Dr. Muhammad Al-Murei, the director of the hospital, said, “It is natural that the prices for operations in private hospitals would increase in proportion to the increase in prices of supplies, medical equipment and fuel required for generators and other things.”


Raeda Al-Akel (age 25), from Kafr Nabl, has a son, Muhammad (five years old), who experienced difficulty in breathing due to childhood asthma. Therefore, she went to a paediatrician, M. B., and due to the lack of patients in his clinic,was able to consult with him immediately to ask him to help her son. She was shocked when the doctor shouted at her sharply, “First, pay 750 SP.” Raeda said, “For a moment, I felt I was standing in front of a greedy merchant rather than a paediatrician. Of course I was going to pay him, but taking care of the illness should come first!” The doctor’s excuse was that some people evade payment after being seen.


Sarah (age 30), from Kafr Nabl also has a painful story due to doctors’ greed and disregard for human life. Sarah gave birth to a baby girl, Maya, in a private hospital and was forced to pay all the money that she had. However, the new born baby became very ill, so she and her husband went to Orient Field Hospital in Kafr Nabl in the hope that their daughter might be treated without having to use their non-existent money. In the hospital, the paediatrician, Z. G., performed some tests which enabled him to discover that the child had diabetes. He demanded that the parents go to a private hospital to put the child in an incubator even though his hospital had incubators. The husband told him that his financial situation does not allow him to go to private hospitals due to their high fees. Then the doctor ordered the nurse to give the child oxygen and intravenous serum in a hospital room.


Sarah said, “Maya was improving slowly, which annoyed Dr. Z. G., who had to examine her every day and prescribe her a new medicine.” Then, a week after the start of the treatment, the doctor ordered the release of the child despite not having recovered yet. He assured Sarah that her situation was better and that they could continue treating her at home by continuously supplying her with serum. Although Sarah was sure that her daughter’s condition would deteriorate without oxygen, she had to trust the doctor who ordered her release from the hospital.


On Maya’s first night at home her health deteriorated and she was breathing with difficulty. Consequently, her parents returned to the field hospital late at night. The hospital’s staff called Dr Z. G. to examine the child, but as soon as he entered the hospital, he looked at the parents and said, “Hasn’t she died yet?” - as if he sent her home to die there, or rather to hasten her death after depriving her from oxygen. This is what Sarah confirmed and she added agitatedly, “Yes, my child died on that night,” asserting that the doctor was “…irresponsible and unscrupulous, and it was he who killed her; our only sin was having no money.” In private hospitals, it seems that we must pay high amounts of money and in public hospitals we must be prepared to lose one of our patients due to negligence.


Abu Hassan (age 48), a member of the local council of Kafr Nabl criticises the greed and irresponsibility of some doctors saying, "There is no doubt that Syrian citizens now are experiencing a severe war crisis, which made them displaced, wounded, poor and homeless. This plight has been very long and it is the toughest in decades, and yet there are those who add burdens to poor Syrians, such as the steep and prohibitive fees of some doctors.” Abu Hassan continued by noting, “What happened to them? They increase examination fees like merchants who increase food prices and other things, exploiting the absence of monitoring to increase their wealth. All this is at the expense of those who have nothing to feed their children as a result of the destruction of their homes and their shops and the high costs of everything!”


Abu Hassan points out that there are foreign and Arab doctors who came from outside the country to help the wounded and the ill and to alleviate their suffering without any fees. Therefore, it is his opinion that Syrian doctors should help their people as a matter of priority under such circumstances. He notes that he is not asking doctors to make their services free, but to charge minimal fees in order not to strain patients and worsen their psychological well-being.


Um Khaled (age 40), from the village of Basaqla which is in close proximity to Kafr Nabl, said, “My husband is suffering from a pain in his stomach, and despite that he does not want to see any doctor as he does not have enough money to do that. He knows full well that visiting a doctor will make him sacrifice a week’s worth of home-cooked food by himself.” Um Khaled indicates that there are public hospitals in their area, but not all specialisations are available. This forces patients to visit doctors’ clinics, and therein lies the problem for the poor, according to Um Khaled.


At the same time, there are doctors who are characterised by good morals who do what their consciences dictate towards their patients. Abu Umar (age 45) from Maaret Al-Numan, said, “I had heart pain so I visited one of the best doctors in Kafr Nabl, who is A. G. In the clinic, he received me with a smile and high work ethics.” Abu Umar confirms that this doctor did not ask him for an examination fee even after he finished examining him and wrote a prescription. Then Abu Umar paid a small amount of money and the doctor thanked him and saw him off without even looking at the money. Abu Umar praises the morals of this doctor as he does not ask patients to pay a fixed amount, but leaves it to them depending on their financial situation. Abu Umar wishes that all doctors had the noble ethics of this doctor.


Suad (age 28) was a victim of doctors’ greed; she lost her five-month foetus as a result of contracting a disease during her pregnancy, which caused the miscarriage. She said, “I could not visit the gynaecologist’s clinic due to the high costs of examination and medication, which surpass our financial ability.” Suad expressed her pain saying, “The poor can no longer live in this country.”




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