Transforming Health Services for Vulnerable Populations in Lebanon
Mr Toufic's Story
Mr Toufic had only one thought when he left his job as a medical representative in Beirut and returned to his hometown Tripoli — to give back to his community.
A city in northern Lebanon, Tripoli has long struggled with political instability and high poverty rates — challenges that have been compounded by the arrival of nearly 252,000 Syrian refugees.
Mr Toufic was hired to serve as the director of a new primary health clinic run by the local non-governmental organisation Makarem el Akhlak in Tripoli’s city centre.
After hiring four doctors, one nurse and a part-time cleaner, he expected the patients to come pouring in, but the clinic only saw about 100 patients a month. Those who came often complained about the lack and inefficiency of services.
“Despite the fact that I have a medical background, I was not well-prepared to run a primary health care centre,” Mr Toufic recalls, “but I wanted to help my community and my people.”
Two years later, International Medical Corps had begun to look for a clinic to support in Tripoli, to help make health care services available to underprivileged families, when it found Mr Toufic. Sharing the same vision, Mr Toufic and International Medical Corps started to work together, with funding from the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), to improve the quality of services provided at Makarem el Akhlak.
The International Medical Corps team worked with Mr Toufic to identify weaknesses and gaps in the clinic and actions to improve them. “The first thing we did was meet and put together a plan to improve the work at the clinic,” Mr Toufic says.
Equipped with a checklist of goals, deadlines and focal points, he met with his team regularly to make sure they were on track with the work plan, while International Medical Corps held multiple trainings for the clinic staff on areas such as infection prevention and control, non-communicable diseases and clinic management.
Mr Toufic says that the support from International Medical Corps tremendously improved the day-to-day operations and quality of care provided at the clinic. “The medical records are now well-organised to ensure patient privacy, and more staff have been hired so that patients can be seen by a health professional more quickly.”
International Medical Corps’ support allows Makarem el Akhlak to offer consultations at reduced fees and free prescribed medications for refugees and Lebanese host community members. It also covers 85 percent of the expenses of diagnostic tests for patients over 60 years old, pregnant women, children under five and those with disabilities.
Today, Makarem el Akhlak sees more than 1,000 patients a month — a ten-fold increase from when it first opened in 2012.
The clinic also goes beyond providing medical services, detecting health risks in the community early on and preventing them by raising awareness about common medical problems, healthy habits and what services are available. Because of this, Mr Toufic believes the clinic is preventing outbreaks and lowering mortality rates, especially among children.
“A few months back, we noticed that the amount of antenatal care was very low at our clinic,” Mr Toufic explains. “One of our midwives started doing informal interviews with women to understand the reasons why they did not seek antenatal care services and it turned to be lack of awareness.
Therefore, we started doing awareness sessions about antenatal care and family planning at the clinic and we have noticed the increase in the number of pregnant women at our clinic.”
For all of its work, Makarem el Akhlak has earned a good reputation among both host and refugee communities alike. This is evidenced by the geographic range of patients that come to the clinic.
Mr Toufic explains: