By Onome Akpogheneta | 2 November 2011
Libya’s main priority for its health system is to rebuild its emergency services, according to a leaked report by the interim government.
Exaro has obtained a copy of the health-care blueprint by the country’s National Transitional Council (NTC). It says: “Libya is enduring a medical and health-care crisis that is in danger of becoming a humanitarian catastrophe if urgent needs are not addressed.”
“Alarmingly, the focus on this emergency means that other critical health needs and provision have been neglected”
– Libya Emergency Medical and Health-care Plan
“Emergency services risk not being able to cope with those injured during [the] fighting… There is no system to deal with a possible outbreak of disease.”
The health-care strategy, entitled, ‘Libya Emergency Medical and Health-care Plan’, outlines proposals for “stabilisation and reconstruction”.
Many Libyans have been unable to receive proper medical attention for serious conditions, such as cancer, because people wounded in the conflict have had priority. “Chronic patients [are] not receiving necessary treatments,” says the report.
“Alarmingly, the focus on this emergency means that other critical health needs and provision have been neglected. Cancer patients [have not been receiving] their regular treatments since February. Chronic cases of heart disease and other conditions are not being treated.”
It reveals how 54 children who were born with heart defects “cannot be treated adequately in Libya, and are on a waiting list to be evacuated abroad.”
The new director of the country’s Ministry of Health, Dr Nagi Giumma Barakat, says in the foreword to the plan that the Libyan health system is “under enormous pressure” and “immediate attention must be given to ensure that we can cope with the existing emergency and daily needs.”
The strategic paper adds: “The plan will be constantly adapted in line with unfolding events across Libya and implemented in full co-operation with international agencies and non-governmental organisations already present in the country and [neighbouring countries].
“The plan prioritises the most urgent needs and must be seen as part of a wider stabilisation and reconstruction effort for Libya.”
It says that the NTC is committed to act “independently of political, geographical or cultural bias” ensuring that health resources are prioritised to reach those in greatest need.
Priorities for Libya’s health system include the recruitment of medical staff, including 2,000 nurses and 500 doctors.
Under the previous regime of Muammar Gaddafi, most of Libya’s health-care workers were foreign nationals, but many fled the country as conflict erupted. The document reveals that 60% of nurses working in Libya before the civil war came from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. It stresses that an influx of skilled health-care staff is vital.
The report says: “Stocks of drugs and medical supplies are dangerously low.” Libya needs cancer drugs, HIV drugs, hormone-replacement drugs, anti-epileptic and anti-psychotic drugs, and pain killers. It lists as a priority: “Restock drugs, testing and trauma kits, medical consumables and equipment.”
The country needs X-ray machines, MRI scanners and other technical equipment, as well as technicians to service them. Further items on the shopping list are a wide variety of medicines, vaccines and fridges to store them.
The country is also looking for blood products, intravenous fluids, surgical kits, blood-testing kits, specialist clothing, leg braces, splints and other medical devices.
It needs to rebuild and equip hospitals and offices for health administration. The plan outlines how money will be used to tackle “immediate urgent needs” and “set up trauma and rehabilitation centres, repair machines and infrastructure, salaries and ‘capacity-building’ the Ministry of Health’s administration.”
IT is another priority area where millions of euros are to be spent. Software specialists will be hired to design systems and provide training. The report says that IT systems are “quasi non-existent” and “infrastructure destroyed.”
It also gives a detailed run-down of the new government’s health-care budgets.