BEIRUT/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The first kidney dialysis treatment center for Palestinian refugees in northern Lebanon opened its doors Friday. The new medical facility, located in the Beddawi refugee camp, will end the need for patients to travel to distant hospitals for treatment.
“The construction of the kidney dialysis unit is a huge accomplishment for all patients and their families in north Lebanon,” dialysis patient Ibrahim Jaber said, according to a United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency press release. “I personally have to get kidney dialysis treatment three times a week. Thanks to this unit, I can save around $100 in transportation fees per month. I will also save myself from the physical exhaustion [from the travel].”
The 52-year-old Palestinian national was among the first group of patients to receive treatment at the facility Friday. Jaber was visited by Hakam Shahwan, acting director of UNRWA affairs in Lebanon, who toured the unit during the launch.
“Today we celebrate a true partnership to support the health of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. I thank all of my colleagues and I hope this partnership expands in the future since it is concerned with lessening the suffering of all the North’s sick,” the press release quoted Shahwan as saying.
The unit is a co-funded initiative by UNRWA, UNICEF, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, Taawon-Lebanon, Islamic Relief, the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and the Health Care Society.
Also present were Abou Jihad Fayyad, secretary-general of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the north; Fouad Bawarchi, chairman of the board of directors of the Welfare Association in Lebanon; Bahija Mayassi, director of the Health Care Society; and Dr. Younes al-Khatib, president of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
“Previously, patients had to seek treatment at Lebanese hospitals outside the camp,” Dr. Riad Merhi, director of general administration at the Palestine Red Crescent Society told The Daily Star. “Some patients were able to receive subsidized treatment thanks to the Lebanese Health Ministry. Regardless, dialysis, medications and supplements can be costly and are not easy to get.”
While some patients were able to benefit from subsidies, those who did not qualify incurred high fees at local hospitals. Others in more vulnerable situations, unable to subscribe to specialized units, were forced to seek treatment at the Palestine Red Crescent-affiliated Hamshari Hospital in Sidon.
The new unit in Beddawi has seven kidney dialysis machines, seven beds, one intensive care room and one quarantine room for the treatment of communicable diseases. According to the UNRWA statement, the “latest modern medical equipment” will be made available to treat the approximately 35 patients in need of dialysis treatment, from both the Syrian and Lebanese Palestinian refugee communities in the north.
While Merhi expressed optimism about the new unit, saying it would sufficiently meet the needs of patients, he noted that kidney diseases were growing in prevalence within the Palestinian refugee community.
“Sometimes patients only come once a week, others may come three times a week, it depends on their condition ... but still, we expect the number of patients to grow in the future.”