27 April 2011 Beirut
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, launched a new programme for the relief of catastrophic ailments entitled CARE (catastrophic ailment relief programme), which will improve the accessibility of patients to the care needed and reduce the financial burden on Palestinian patients.
Thanks to additional funds that UNRWA gathered with the support of private partners, health providers in Lebanon and other stakeholders, the Agency is gradually increasing its response to the growing needs in this field.
The beneficiaries of this programme are all Palestinian patients whose condition is classified as catastrophic, meaning it requires long and very costly treatment. They will receive financial assistance in addition to what they already receive under the Agency’s tertiary care. These catastrophic conditions include but are not limited to: cancer diseases, cardiovascular diseases necessitating advanced expensive cardiovascular interventions, neurological diseases etc. In addition, they include medical conditions that require admission to intensive care units or long-term expensive treatment in tertiary care hospitals (e.g. massive gastrointestinal bleeding, cerebrovascular accidents, etc.). The CARE programme also covers patients suffering from catastrophic diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and whose outpatient treatment is significantly costly.
In Lebanon, 95 per cent of Palestine refugees do not have any health insurance. UNRWA almost fully covers secondary hospitalisation services, which account for 85 per cent of total hospital admissions, through its contracts with 22 hospitals (governmental, private and Palestinian Red Crescent). However, tertiary care services that are a more technologically sophisticated form of hospitalisation are provided in 15 contracted hospitals and covered only partially by the Agency. For very expensive or technically demanding tertiary treatment, the ceiling per admission often only covers part of the cost, leaving the patient to find the remaining funds.
UNRWA had announced on 8 April 2011 an increase of its coverage of tertiary healthcare services to Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. Effective 1 May 2011, the average coverage will increase from 30 to 40 per cent. All Palestinian patients are eligible to benefit from this increase at all UNRWA's contracted hospitals for tertiary care services. For surgical admissions, the coverage will be increased to 40 per cent of the Ministry of Health cut rate. In the case of medical admissions, the Agency’s coverage will be raised from US$ 200 to US$ 250 per hospitalisation day, with the duration extended from 10 to 12 days, hence increasing the ceiling per admission from US$ 2,000 USD to US$ 3,000.
Meanwhile, UNRWA continues to actively seek funds in order to further improve its tertiary health care service. If successful, the Agency aims to increase its tertiary healthcare coverage to 50 per cent by the end of 2011.