Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Thursday, February 2, 2023

News Report | Syrians fear hospitals as medical care deteriorates

There was a time when Syrian physicians were held in high regard internationally for their specialized skills and quality of patient care. But the continuing deterioration of conditions in the country has the Syndicate of Syrian Physicians attempting to recruit and import foreign doctors from outside the country to make up for the severe shortage in hospitals in specialties such as forensic medicine, nephrology, anesthesiology, and vascular medicine. But even these attempts to fill the gap do nothing to negate the reason that so many of Syria’s surviving physicians have immigrated to places like Germany, namely the lack of security in Syria and the desire to seek a safe work atmosphere where they can effectively practice medicine.

Aleppo University Hospital/SYRIAWISE

After the onset of the revolution in 2011, Syria became a slaughterhouse for doctors and medical personnel who treated those who had been injured by the regime or were working in the liberated areas. The Assad regime’s deliberate targeting of doctors and medical facilities has been decried as a crime against humanity internationally, and its policy of domination through humiliation and starvation has not excluded anyone in its efforts to remain in power. As a result, the physicians who have remained in Syria are understaffed and overwhelmed.

We are barely managing with the available supplies and many times have to resort to asking the relatives of a patient to buy medical supplies for us

A physician working at AUH
Emergency Unit, Aleppo University Hospital/SYRIAWISE

A Syrian physician working at Aleppo University Hospital (AUH) told SYRIAWISE about the devastating conditions that patients are struggling with due to not enough medical staff to cover all the specialties in the hospital. “In my field of specialty, it is extremely difficult to work without at least two ortho technicians, or a nurse who is specialized in making or removing casts, with the high volume of patients coming to the hospital daily. In addition, no standard hygiene sterilization procedure is observed in the operating room. We are barely managing with the available supplies and many times have to resort to asking the relatives of a patient to buy medical supplies for us.”

Post-surgical follow-up care is non-existent

A relative of a patient

An employee in Aleppo told SYRIAWISE: “I brought my husband last month to the AUH emergency department due to severe abdominal pain. After several trips to the emergency room, he was finally operated on by an attending physician who shortened his colon. But the attending physicians are all medical students who lack experience and we have had to return to the hospital many times because of complications that arose after the surgery including an infection that we treated at home. Post-surgical follow-up care is non-existent and we have lost so much faith in their ability to treat him that my husband is only willing to go back when the pain becomes unbearable.“

Another teacher in Aleppo shared with SYRIAWISE how his relative died at home after being operated on at ِAlrazy, another government hospital, and how his family had paid 1,000,000 Syrian Pounds for the metal rod that they brought to the hospital to be used in the surgery to repair her broken leg.

Alrazy Hospital in Aleppo; Credit: Sputnik

Dr. Haissam Saad, a general and gastrointestinal surgeon who formerly practiced medicine in Damascus and now lives in Paris, told SYRIAWISE about how he sees the current health situation in Syria: “The health system in the country has collapsed as there are no doctors, hospitals, and adequate treatments; poor support covers only a small percentage of the needs.”

the absence of hygiene, medicines, medical equipment and supplies led to the spread of diseases, especially epidemics, which led to a high rate of death and disability

Dr. Haissam Saad

“For years, there has been a large exodus of doctors, along with the destruction of a large percentage of hospitals and medical centers that are out of service; the absence of hygiene, medicines, medical equipment and supplies led to the spread of diseases, especially epidemics, which led to a high rate of death and disability,” said Dr. Saad, adding that “the death of a large number of doctors due to murder and arrest, in addition to emigration outside the country, which led to a severe decrease in their number and a decline in good medical practice as medicine is being practiced by unqualified doctors,” all have resulted in the medical situation in Syria under Assad rule being not only very miserable but also deadly dangerous.

A registered nurse working in another government hospital in Aleppo told SYRIAWISE about the contaminations found everywhere in the hospital: “I am afraid that I will convey a virus or a disease to my family because of the poor precautions regarding infectious diseases like meningitis and cholera which was recently spread to many of Aleppo’s neighborhoods.”

as long as Assad remains in power, living conditions in Syria will continue to deteriorate and quality medical care

In addition, the nurse also expressed sorrow that many patients had died due to a lack of medical supplies for renal dialysis patients, and at the oncology center where there are waiting lists for chemo and therapy sessions. Because of the widespread corruption and favoritism imposed by the Syrian government, priority is given to those who are recommended by the regime such as Assad officers who are having important positions in intelligence, detective agencies, or the army.

“It is not fair and this is inhuman. No favoritism should be shown in medicine when it comes to patient care and safety,” she said to SYRIAWISE.

The bottom line is that as long as Assad remains in power, living conditions in Syria will continue to deteriorate and quality medical care will be as difficult to come by as all the other necessities for sustaining life continue to be.

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