Idlib: civilians fall victim to lack of medical equipment

The medical sector in rebel-held Idlib province is suffering from a lack of equipment after warplanes have repeatedly targeted hospitals, with residents unable to repair the damage because medical technicians are few and far between.

The Idlib Health Directorate announced last Thursday that the CAT scan machine at one of its centers was knocked out of service after the center was bombed, which will have negative effects on patients because personnel are having trouble finding a replacement.

“Residents of the southern Idlib countryside travel more than 45km to get a CAT scan in Idlib city, but the machine is no longer working,” said Ibrahim Khalil, an employee at the medical center. People who now want a scan will have to travel twice that distance or more to reach clinics along the Turkish border.

“The chance that the broken machine will be repaired are slim, in light of the circumstances faced by the medical repair sector,” he added.

Dr. Mohanad al-Khalil told the Syrian Voice that, “northern Syria’s lack of medical equipment, and lack of technical expertise, has plunged us into a problem. The Echo machine in my clinic had a simple malfunction, and after much investigation and searching, I found an engineer who specialized in repairing medical equipment along the Turkish border. A little while after it was repaired it broke again, and now it’s laying in my house.”

The Echo machine costs 15,000 USD, an indication of the high cost of other medical equipment in the area. The rising cost of medical machinery has caused a new problem for civilians, on top of their ordinary wartime issues, because some machines are only available in certain areas or in large hospitals supported by international and regional organizations.

“The rising cost of medical machines is due to a lack of trusted import companies, and the fact that they only import from people who deal with companies abroad, especially in Turkey, to say nothing of the lack of an organization to control and supervise this activity that is loyal to the rebel administration of opposition areas,” Abu Anes, head of a medical center in south Idlib, told the Syrian Voice.

Some doctors have started thinking about sending their machines for repair in regime-held areas, despite the dangers that might accompany such an operation, like confiscation, or arrest of the person transporting the machine, according to Dr. Mohaned al-Khalil.

The Idlib Health Directorate tried to avoid technical problems with medical equipment by opening up a center for repairing machines, which began working in August 2015, and was expanded and received additional staff in April.

“The center aims to run preventative and after-the-fact repair operations for medical equipment, but it is difficult to secure replacement parts,” Abdul Hameed Rajjab, the head of the center, told the Syrian Voice.

“One machine is repaired at the expense of another, and the machine whose part was removed turns useless.”

“A number of machines have gone out of service because of no replacement parts, including a mobile x-ray unit, electric cables, and others.”

“It’s not just a lack of medical technicians that’s a burden on the medical sector, but the lack of institutions that provide materials for these machines, because no matter how much experience a technician has, he can’t do anything if he needs a small part that’s not available,” said Mohammed al-Astur, a local medical technician.

A lack of medical machinery is directly affecting local medical institutions and private and public clinics in northern Syrian. Its impact is felt most strongly by hundreds of thousands of civilians living in rebel-held areas in Idlib and its countryside.




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