The importance of Lebanon’s dispensaries lies in promoting sustainable growth and a healthy society.
According to the Ministry of Public Health, these institutions contribute to securing justice and equity in terms of health among all people and allows the community to be part of the decision making process in suggesting solutions for its members’ health needs and wellbeing. Thus, a dispensary’s role combines preventive (preventing diseases and promoting health), therapeutic and managerial roles.
There are over 800 healthcare centers across Lebanon with 48 of those in Beirut. Some of them are under the charge of the Ministries of Public Health (MoPH) and the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA); others are operated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or municipalities. Nevertheless, in all cases, the MoPH has put some clear guidelines to be followed concerning the center’s building, recruitment of doctors, procurement of drugs and medication, as well as the ways to deal with patients. In fact, just to get a building permit, the concerned parties should provide construction plans, the exact location and official address of the proposed dispensary, a list of doctors’ names, specialties and working hours, and another list with the nurses’ information, and working licenses.
Gilberte Nachar, director at the Saint Jean Dispensary in Adib Shaq, Achrafiyeh, explained that their staff works according to the ministry’s decisions. “Our dispensary is both under the patronage of the MoSA who provides around three-quarters of the medication and the Maronite Charity Association helps with the rest.” The patient comes to the dispensary for consultation and then is provided with tablets only if necessary and if they can’t afford buying them from a local pharmacist. According to their statistics, Nachar says that they receive more than 150 people per month with chronic diseases and to whom they provide medical assistance according to the chronic disease program put together by the MoPH. Gladys Farah from Sayde Church dispensary in Hamra, speaks further about the latter program: “All patients with chronic diseases are examined by the dispensary’s doctor every month and are then given the precise amount of pills to cover them for exactly one month”.
The Health Response Strategy formulated by the MoPH and published in 2015 shows that around 25% of the current Lebanese population are refugees. Thus, living in different areas around the country, they are naturally allowed to benefit from the dispensaries’ services. Jean D’arc Mattar, secretary at the Chiyah Primary Health Care Center, next to Saint Maroun Church in Ain El Remmeneh, affirms that the dispensary is open to everyone, and provides them with family medicine services; “after a consultation, the patient is supposed to pay 10,000 L.L. (app 6.6 US dollars) but is exempted from this symbolic fee if we find that they do not have the social or financial capability of paying”. Nachar also mentioned that some refugees don’t really know how to watch for their children’s health: “in case of fever or when each vaccine is due. Our first social responsibility is to take care of them and in order to limit any disease from spreading.”
When asked about the quality of their doctors, Leila Hojeij, secretary of the Imam Al Hussein dispensary in Chiyah, stated that all doctors should have their official degrees or colloquium with an authorized professional practice and should apply to the dispensary’s office first, where they’re reviewed by the administration. She adds: “we have a printed schedule on the door stating the doctors’ specialty and working hours, so that people know when to visit the dispensary. We also mention when parents can bring their children in for free vaccination”, the latter being a requirement of the MoPH’s generalized declaration number 47, issued on 12 May 2014, about the mandatory abidance of the dispensaries in Lebanon by its legal texts.
For more info:
Primary Health Care Center of Chiyah 01/390051
Sayde Dispensary 01/353788
Imam El-Hussein Dispensary 03/248244
Saint John Dispensary 01/337860