Idlib’s worsening living conditions | Costs of medicine and treatment go up • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Idlib’s worsening living conditions | Costs of medicine and treatment go up

In Idlib city and rural areas the costs of treating patients are increasing at all levels, whether the costs of medicines, surgeries, and fees of physicians in private clinics.

The devaluation of the Turkish lira against the US dollar, the stoppage of aid given tomostmedical institutions by donors amid the worsening living conditions for the majority of families in the region are among the main reasons for the increases of the costs of medical treatment.

Beside high costs of medical treatment, other factors harm the process of treating patients like the spread of pharmacies that are not licenced either by the Health Ministry or “the Salvation Government,” and the existence of several unqualified physicians and pharmacists, some of whom work with forged certificates.

On January 8, 2021, the “Salvation Government” in Idlib issued a decree banning the sales of medicine in private clinics to preserve the role of pharmacies. The decree also banned selling medicines in pharmacies without prescription signed by certified doctors. This step was taken to tackle the problems of fluctuation of medicine prices and prevalent unlicenced pharmacies that only work for commercial objectives.

An 18-year-old man who is known by his initials as (S. KH.) suffers from bed sores because he is almost paralysed because of brain atrophy. To treat the skin ulcers, his family buys pain killers, ointments for burns and sanitisers. 

The father told SOHR sources that he earns 25 TL from his seasonal work and struggles with the difficult living conditions and has no longer been able to afford buying medicine for his son.   

He has to spend nearly 50 TL per week to buy medicineor his son, including ointment for burns (15-20 TL), sanitizer (more than 20 TL) and painkiller bills (10 TL). However, those items are not very effective and are just preventing spread of the ulcers/bedsores due to the patient long time of lying in bed. He noted his son has been suffering that disease for more the 14 years.

The father adds prices of medicine differ from one area to another and even among pharmacies in one district, noting that medicine prices are high in general, especially in the past few weeks amid the devaluation of the Turkish lira which is exploited as a pretext by pharmacies to raise the prices and in light of the shortage of medicine in all areas in Idlib according to pharmacists.

A. KH.’s father hopes to find free medicine for his son because he could not bear more financial burdens, adding he has applied to several organisation to get a wheelchair, but in vain.

Meanwhile, a doctor known by his initials as (A. A.) told SOHR sources that there is no fixed ceiling or the costs of all kinds of surgeries or even the “doctors’ fees”, noting that determining the expenses is associated to each doctor and his speciality. Even the costs of operations in private hospitals vary based on the type and difficulty of each surgery.

The doctor adds several hospitals provide free services and receive aid from the “Salvation Government” or some health-concerned humanitarian organisations, noting that most of the people who choose private hospitals can afford the treatment and surgeries expenses, which is often the case anywhere in the world. 

Concerning the costs of some surgical operations in private hospitals, (A. A.) points out that the excision of the appendix or gallbladder costs 200-300 US dollars based on each hospital, while the orthopaedic surgery could reach 400 US dollars, referring to the higher costs of other types of surgeries, including disc, complex operations like arteries and cancers.

He adds, also, the majority of patients are forced to ask for permission to enter Turkish medical centres because some hospitals in Idlib do not conduct special surgeries. Meanwhile, some hospitals lack some ex-ray devices and M.R.I scans which are very important for diagnosing “dislocations of bones”, the doctor explained noting that a scan may cost nearly 130 US dollar.

The doctor adds that staying in private hospitals also incurs extra costs, noting that after the outbreak of CVODI-19, one night in a private hospital has increased to nearly 75 US dollars.

He adds that the costs of surgeries and medicines are not the only problem for residents in Idlib, as also the fees of private clinics are high especially of some doctors with certain limited specialities.

He referred to the fees of some private doctors, 100 TL for psychiatric, 100 TL for dentist, ophthalmologist, E. N. T, cardiologist, while other specialities cost from 40 to 75 TL, which are still unaffordable to patients amid severe poverty that impacts most of the families, mainly the migrants and displaced in camps.

The “Salvation Government”-run medical centres suffer worsening services and are threatened with closure due to the stoppage of aid provided by organisations and donners.

On January 12, the “Salvation Government” launched on its official Facebook account a campaign under “Support Idlib Hospital”. The post highlights that more than 14 hospitals suffer over three months lack of aid, and that hundreds of thousands of civilians are deprived of medical care, referring to “Al-Raham Hospital” in Darkoush city in west Idlib countryside that serves nearly 70,000 people, “Quarantine Hospital” in KarfTakhareem town in north Idlib countryside, and “Al-Watani Hospital” and others.

It is worth noting that with rise of COVID-19 cases, all health centres in north Syria have been suffering shortage of equipment, beds, oxygen, and the whole medical sector has been badly hit.

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