BEIRUT: In Lebanon, three out of four hospitals still report overdoses and drug-related emergencies to the police, according to Skoun NGO.
“This practice is dangerous because it discourages people from going to a hospital when they’re having an overdose, or if someone they know is overdosing, their friends are reluctant to take them to the ER,” Michelle Wazan, drug policy department coordinator at Skoun NGO, told Annahar.
“It’s dangerous because people can die, and this is preventable,” she added.
Skoun has been working on stopping hospitals from reporting overdoses since 2016.
On August 22, Minister of Public Health Jamil Jabak, with the help of Skoun, issued circular 76 which urged the managements of hospitals to commit to circular 46 that was issued on March 22, 2016.
The circular requested that the hospital administrations and medical personnel refrain from reporting cases of overdose to police officers. It recalled the medical profession’s ethics and stressed the respect of the right to the confidentiality of people who use drugs or are living with addiction.
The circular has been passed to the minister himself, the Ministry of Interior and of Municipalities, the Syndicate of Hospitals, governmental hospitals, the Order of Physicians in Beirut and Tripoli, and the Syndicate of Nurses.
“Last year, we mapped out the hospitals that don’t report to the police so that people know where to go in case they overdose,” Wazan told Annahar. “Skoun contacted 133 hospitals to find that only 23 of them implement the Ministry's directive.”
The list of hospitals that abide by the circular includes prominent hospitals, such as the AUBMC, Clemenceau Medical Center, Lebanese Hospital Geitawi, Hôtel-Dieu de France Hospital, Mount Lebanon Hospital, Rizk Hospital, Soeurs du Rosaires Hospital, and Trad Hospital, among others.
“This is not enough,” says Wazan. “We’re still lobbying from a circular from the Ministry of Interior because it would be even more binding than the circular of the Ministry of Public Health, as it would tell the police not to respond to calls about overdoses,” she added.
Drug use in Lebanon is said to be prevalent but remains difficult to define, according to The Executive magazine. An estimate from a 2012 report by the Institute of Health Management and Social Protection at Saint Joseph University in Beirut suggested that the “number of drug users in Lebanon ranges from 10,000 to 15,000 and that this figure is continuously increasing.”
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