Every year they receive millions from the state budget, but from two decades now they haven’t undertaken any surgical intervention. They remain open to pay employees who are larger in number than patients who turn for help to the Hospital of Përmet and Tepelenë, while almost all of them end in Gjirokastra. The Director of Gjirokastra Hospital asks for intervention to change the situation: We have overload, these hospitals should turn to emergency centers.
By Telnis Skuqi
GJIROKASTĖR – Albanian taxpayers spend a fortune to maintain hospitals, but when they go there as patients they come out disappointed by what is offered to them because they are obliged to pay again for health service. Ermonela. Q, loan officer in one of the commercial banks in Tepelenë will never forget her outrageous adventure as she calls it, that she experienced in the town’s hospital. “I do not want to discuss about the heroism of doctors, but the lack of medicines. My father was hospitalized for heart disease, but I would have lost him due to the lack of medication. I was forced to buy all medicines in the drug store. My father has contributed to health insurance for all his life, but at the moment when health services are needed, the hospital does not even offer medicines,” says Ermonela.
According to her, the Hospital of Tepelenë has turned into an employment office rather than a health institution. “I do not understand why at least 160 employees are paid, when they are not able to offer a single health service?” asks Ermonela. “You cannot make fun of health”, she continues. Further, the mother of three minor children says that Albanian taxpayers multi-pay their health insurance. “Albania is the only country of Europe that patients are not subsidized by the health insurance system. Everything functions by giving bribe starting from the cleaning lady to the doctors. This is reality in this country”, underlines Ermonela.
Since long ago, the Hospital of Tepelenë suffers from the lack of professional physicians, while it treats a minimum number of patients not justifying thus the funds allocated annually from the state budget. Official data from the Hospital of Tepelenë specify that 171 people are employed in this institution, but from 20 years now not a single surgery, even a slight one, has been performed. This situation is also recognized by the Ministry of Health, the only institution that must find the solution to inefficient hospitals that keep the door open to pay employees while they cannot provide even minimal services to patients. “For a decade the institution lacks a surgeon, obstetricians, anesthesiologist, otorinologist, ophthalmologist, neurologist, and orthopedics, while the hospital has employed with special contracts three doctors and a pediatrician, all of them retired”, is written in the report of the Ministry of Health.
The Hospital of Tepelenë has 88 beds available. According to the report of Ministry of Health on the situation in hospitals throughout 2014, the Hospital of Tepelenë had bed occupancy of 5.5 beds, a very low figure compared to the high cost of operation. Official sources say that the Hospital of Tepelenë would justify its existence if professional physicians approached this hospital, where for 15 years has not been performed any birth in this small southern town. “All mothers, but also patients who present severe cases are sent to the Regional Hospital of Gjirokastra” claim representatives of Tepelenë Hospital. According to representatives of this hospital, during 2014 there were treated 577 patients, a figure that cannot justify at all the fictitious employment of 171 staff members. From the empty corridors of the hospital it is clearly visible that patients prefer to be immediately addressed to Gjirokastra Hospital to not waste time.
The same situation as presented in Tepelenë is also in the Hospital of Përmet, and to some patients life has been denied due to the inability of doctors, as was the case of a 7-year old child, who was introduced in urgency with vomiting, but passed away during treatment. Official sources from the Hospital of Përmet claim that at least 160 people are employed in this institution, while the lack of specialists is very evident. “Almost all patients who come to the Hospital of Përmet end up to the Hospital of Gjirokastra,” says a senior executive of the hospital.
The State Treasury data obtained from the program “Spending Data Albania”, inform that during the 12-month period last year, three hospitals of the district of Gjirokastra have spent from the state budget 438.195.661.33 lekë, out of which 110 311 751 lekë the Hospital of Tepelenë, 87,121,636 lekë the Hospital of Përmet, and 240.762.274.33 lekë the Hospital of Gjirokastra. The same source specifies that in 2014 the Hospital of Gjirokastra conducted by the State Treasury a total of 505 transactions, the Hospital of Tepelenë 223 and the Hospital of Përmet 404 transactions, ranging from employee salaries to medication.
The “Spending Data Albania” foresees the same level of spending in these three hospitals during 2015 as well. “During the first three months of this year, the three hospitals of the Gjirokastra region have spent a total of 96,835,816 lekë from the state budget, of which 53,011,508 lekë the Hospital of Gjirokastra, 18,857,579 lekë the Hospital of Përmet and 24,966,729 lekë the Hospital of Tepelenë”, writes “Spending Data Albania”. According to these data, the Hospital of Gjirokastra has performed so far 107 transactions, the Hospital of Tepelenë 43 and the Hospital of Përmet 64. Regarding these expenses, Armand Mamani, director of the Hospital of Gjirokastra, admits that the situation of the hospital system in the south of the country has put into difficulty the medical staff, because all doctors of small towns direct patients to Gjirokastra. “Every day in the Hospital of Gjirokastra are presented patients from Tepelenë, Memaliaj, Këlcyrë and Përmet. This creates an overload at a time that even the Hospital of Gjirokastra suffers from the lack of specialist doctors,” says Mamani. According to him, it is the time that the hospital system of the Gjirokastra region changes in favor to more qualitative services to patients. “Hospitals cannot be considered as the institutions of the employment offices and ‘scratch’ millions from the state budget, while the investment is zero,” says Mamani adding that the cost for a patient in Tepelenë is at least one thousand dollars a day from the state budget, while a patient in Gjirokastra costs 200 dollars.
A disparity of this kind, continues Mamani, is intolerable because a specialist in Gjirokastra, who saves human lives costs less than a cleaning lady in Përmet. For Mamani, the only salvation for the hospital system is the concentration of funds in the Hospital of Gjirokastra, while the Hospital of Tepelenë and Përmet should function as emergency centers. “Actually ‘de jure’ the Hospitals of Përmet and Tepelenë exist as such, but ‘de facto’ they are just emergency centers, because all patients who need a more specialized treatment are sent to the Hospital of Gjirokastra. How can you name “hospital” a health institution which for more than two decades has not performed any surgical operation? Hospital is not an institution of social center, because human life is unrecoverable if lost, while buildings can be reconstructed again, “says Armand Mamani, implying that you cannot make fun of health.
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