BEIRUT: A Palestinian child has died after hospitals across Lebanon were unable to admit him early enough to a pediatric intensive care unit due to a lack of beds.
Three-year-old M.W., from the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, died Monday night at the Tripoli Governmental Hospital.
The family said it had approached several hospitals across Lebanon because M.W. needed to be admitted to a pediatric ICU for a brain surgery.
The child’s mother and uncle told local news channel Al-Jadeed that M.W. had been denied admission due to a lack of pediatric ICU beds, contrary to earlier reports that they could not pay the hospital fees.
The child’s uncle said M.W. had been admitted to the Islamic Hospital in Tripoli, but not to its ICU.
His family later took him to the Tripoli Governmental Hospital’s pediatric ICU, where he fell into a coma and died soon after.
UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestine refugees, said in a statement that it paid for M.W.’s medical treatment at the Islamic Hospital in Tripoli, after he was admitted there on Dec. 14. However, the statement said his situation deteriorated quickly, necessitating transfer to a pediatric ICU, which the Islamic Hospital did not have.
“The UNRWA team in the north and in Beirut [tried] to find a bed for the child in any hospital across Lebanon ... but there were no beds available until [Monday] afternoon at Tripoli Governmental Hospital, where he was admitted,” the statement said. “He unfortunately passed away in the hospital [Monday] night,” it added.
UNRWA said it did not spare any effort or funding, and that the problem lay with the shortage of beds in pediatric ICU units in hospitals.
Caretaker Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani said Tuesday that M.W. did not survive as his case was “very advanced,” according to the state-run National News Agency.
Hasbani added that his ministry “was sure” the child was financially insured by UNRWA, and that M.W. had spent several months undergoing treatment in multiple hospitals in north Lebanon.
“[M.W.] was provided with intensive care in a hospital in the north and in Karantina [Governmental] Hospital. However, it was decided that he stay in the north as it was closer [to his home].”
The Health Ministry had denied earlier Tuesday that the child’s death was a result of delayed admission, saying M.W. was in hospital at the time of his death.
“M.W. received treatment, which was covered by UNRWA, and was admitted to the hospital,” it said.
The ministry said it had communicated with UNRWA as part of its investigation into the matter.
It found that M.W. had undergone surgery in August and September in Sidon’s Hammoud Hospital, and that he had been admitted to the Islamic Hospital earlier this month, where he stayed for four days before being transferred to the Tripoli Governmental Hospital. The Daily Star could not immediately reach any of the hospitals for comment.
Nahr al-Bared’s residents announced the closure of all shops in the camp Wednesday, after the Palestinian Popular Committees there called for a strike to be held throughout the camp.
“We call on all the people in Nahr al-Bared ... to close all shops and institutions in mourning [M.W.], who lost his life due to the neglect [of] our people,” the group said.
During the child’s funeral march Tuesday, Nahr al-Bared residents called for a hospital to be established inside the camp and protested the camp’s “neglect.”