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Jordan is on the brink of a health care crisis. The tiny kingdom’s aging health infrastructure has long been in need of an overhaul, but recent events in the region have exacerbated an already-difficult situation. The economic boom that Jordan experienced after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 has come to a grinding halt. Capital and investment have fled, and jobs are scarce. Economic stress tends to cause people to fall back on public health care services, but the government has been facing a budget crisis of massive proportions. Rounds of austerity measures have increased the price of fuel and basic goods, pounding hard an already weary population. Exacerbating matters, in the past decade Jordan has absorbed massive waves of new refugees — first from Iraq and now Syria.

Since early 2011, more than half a million Syrians have found refuge in a country with a population of barely more than six million. Hundreds of people arrive every day, many of whom come with severe injuries, long-term health issues or both. Many women arrive pregnant — some of whom, married at a young age, are barely more than children themselves.

Early in the crisis, the kingdom offered all Syrian refugees free health care in the public system. But as the demand for care grew, it came close to bringing the system to its knees. In March, Dr. Yaroub Ajlouni, president of the Jordan Health Aid Society, reported that the health system in northern Jordan — where many Syrian refugees live — was on the verge of collapse. Beds were unavailable in the public hospitals, intensive care unit spaces and incubators were full, drugs in short supply. Since then, Dr. Ajlouni and other aid workers say the kingdom has relieved some of the crowding, quietly scaling back the amount of health care refugees can access, implementing new restrictions and asking international organizations to carry more of the burden. The crisis has affected everyone.

Sister Najma says the Mother of Mercy Clinic sees few refugees — perhaps 10 or 15 a day — but demand for its services is constantly growing, and the clinic is struggling to keep up with the increase. Part of this is because space is limited, Mr. Bahou explains, and part of it is that the same economic factors squeezing Jordanians are also putting pressure on private health care providers. “It’s getting tight, because we cannot increase the budget anymore,” says Mr. Bahou.

“We’re trying to keep the budget as it is and absorb the higher cost of maintenance and utilities.

“We have many generous donors, but it’s not easy,” says Mr. Bahou. “We’re managing with the amount we’re receiving — we don’t have a problem — but it’s very tight. Every penny we spend, it should be used very reasonably.”

Things are not yet dire — the clinic is slated for renovation this year, funded in part by the U.S. Eastern Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. But Sister Najma says the pressure on the sisters is growing, and there is no room to treat more patients.

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