Elona Tereziu, “Shëndet+” (Kliko këtu për versionin shqip)
“Food is horrible. Everything is served cold. This kind of food is not served even in prison.” This is how patients, who receive dialysis’ service at the American Hospital, express themselves. Why should we always bring with us blankets and sheets? They address questions like: “Doesn`t the state pay for this?” Actually, the state pays 11.204 Albanian Lek (ALL) for each session of dialysis for patients that receive service in private hospitals. This service fee is listed in the standard contract, published by the Compulsory Healthcare Insurance Fund (FSDKSH) on its official website.
Despite the enormous amount of money, the patients under treatment at the American Hospital, are obliged to bring bed sheets from home while the food, as they say, is totally inedible. But the problem is more complex because the Albanian institutions, contacted by us, do not accept any responsibility on this issue. The Health Ministry and Mother Teresa University Hospital Center insist that it is not their responsibility to monitor hospital dialysis services on the American Hospital. Meanwhile FSDKSH which provides the money for this private institution, does not answer either by mail or by email. On the other hand, contacted by “Together for Life” association, the American Hospital administration refused to answer on this issue.
In 2014, Albanian Health Ministry informed that there are about 900 people who receive dialysis services across the country. This service is available in four public centers (Tirana, Shkodra, Elbasan, Gjirokastra) and in two private hospitals (Hospital “Hygeia” with a center in Tirana and the American Hospital with three Hemodialysis centers in Tirana, Durrës and Fier).
The American Hospital patients speak out loud, accusing this institution of abusing with state provided funds for their treatment because as they say “the laundry service is lacking, as a result they are forced to go to the hospital with their own bed sheets. Meanwhile, the food is simply not sufficient”.
According to the contract, the Albanian state gives the American Hospital 11,204 ALL for a single hemodialysis session received by a patient. Taking into account the fact that a patient goes through a dialysis session three times a week, each week of the year, that means that the Albanian state pays the American Hospital for 156 sessions received by each patient which amounts to 1,747,824 ALL per year.
According to the deputy head of the Hemodialysis Patients’ Association, Alma Sheme, the American Hospital treats 190 patients. As a result, in one year, our state refunds this private institution the amount of 332. 086.560 ALL or if stated in in the people language, as our politicians are frequently referring to it lately, a total sum of 3,3 billion dollars (2.371.200 Euros). The figure includes even the laundry and food service.
Patients bring the bed sheets with them, the food is inedible
Patients receiving dialysis service at the American Hospital are angry at the lack of laundry service and poor quality diet, which among others, is also insufficient for a meal. When contacted by us, patients expressed their anger at the bad service provided, regardless of the amount of money the state pays.
Shpetim Stafa: “The food is horrible. Everything is served cold .They don’t serve this kind of food even in prison. That meal isn’t worth neither 50 ALL, nor 366 ALL allegedly paid by the state for a meal of us. It is better if they don’t give it at all. Why should we always come with blankets and sheets with us? Doesn’t the state pay for this? We stay in beds that look like barbers’ beds. Dialysis cannot be done here; beds are too small, not fit for an adult, while arms and legs remain out of them.
Ardian Hoxha: “I have been treated with dialysis for 15 years. The conditions here are very poor. How can I stay for 4 hours doing dialysis at the bed, while my legs stick out and my arm should stay up? Look how we come here loaded with bags, I even take the pillow with me. The food is really bad. A few times, I went to the chief executive office to complain, but they did nothing, when they bring us the food and we complain, the answer is: why are you here? Is it for the food, is this why you`re here for? I want what it belongs to me, because the food service costs 400 ALL, and the truth is that food served to us doesn`t cost more than 50 ALL, it is simply uncooked potatoes and a piece of rotten chicken, additional to that the cheese that in the dietary regime is labeled “rind cheese”, is substituted with pizza cheese. We have a special food regime and they should bring nothing but what is written there.
Ludovik Prendi: “I come from Puka bringing my own sheets. I leave at 3 am in the morning in order to be here at 7 am so I can get dialysis, because I work in the morning. State won`t reimburse me more than 14.000 new ALL for transportation cost. Besides that, the food, especially for us who come in the morning, is cold, because they keep it in the refrigerator during the night and they serve it like that.
Shkëlqim Shehu: “I take the food with me because I don’t like what they serve us here. I can’t eat that, it looks like restaurants leftovers.
Imer Tereziu: “It’s eight years now since I started the dialysis. I come three times a week from Preza with sheets and blankets. Food is not only bad, but also served in really small portions. It’s not worth the 400 ALL paid for it.
Sejdie Mezini: I come from Klos, three times a week to have dialysis at the American Hospital. I travel 300 km, unattended. We have many complaints that concerning medicines, food and laundry. Doctors say we should not eat potatoes, they fill us with chips. I’m taking the clothes to wash them home, because it’s weekend.
The pictures we managed to take inside and outside the hospital’ premises confirm patients’ complaints. You can see everywhere patients who come and leave with bags in their hands, while due to totally uncomfortable beds, they also have to take bring pillows with them.
Alma Sheme: We complained, but no one responded
The laundry and food issues are not something unheard of. Alma Sheme, Vice President of the Association of Hemodialysis Patients, admits she discussed this matter several times with the general director of the American Hospital, Klodian Allajbeu, but never found a solution and she always walked out the door with unfulfilled promises. Meanwhile the laundry problem remains the same for three years now, forcing patients carry bags from other cities, three times a week.
“The main issues we raised to the American Hospital is the lack of sheets and food, and for this I have spoke out loud a few times. Patients are constantly complaining about the lack of bed sheets and food. The laundry service is normally stated on contract because other private hospitals do offer it, but the American Hospital won’t act the same. I spoke to the director of the American Hospital in Laprakë, Klodian Allajbeu, but he closed the argument by making fun and saying: what do you need the sheets for”.
“I even wrote a formal letter with a protocol no, but he didn`t answer. In case you would like to read it, I can send it to you. He never answered me, neither good, nor bad. Patients have needs, but they don’t care. Food at the American Hospital is neither plentiful nor good, so I always had complaints from patients, from those in Durres, the ones in Fier and the patients of the two hospitals in Tirana.
The American Hospital refuses to answer
On 23, March 2016, a letter was sent to the American Hospital asking for information regarding shortages faced by patients in this institution. The hospital’s administration refused to give an official response or to register the claims with a protocol number, only stating: “Bring us the names of the patients who have complained”.
Health Ministry: It`s the Fund’s responsibility
Meanwhile the Ministry of Health transferred the responsibility to the Fund of Compulsory Insurance Health. According to the Ministry, it`s FSDKSH that gives the money to the American Hospital and as such, it bears the responsibility of monitoring services for dialysis patients.
The Fund does not respond
According to Article 8, paragraph 2 / b of the contract – type published by FSDKSH, “The way of exercising control in the hospital,” the Fund specifically controls:
“The service quality, that is associated with the patients’ relation, equipment functioning and maintenance, meeting hygiene standards, infections etc”.
Consequently, since March 29, 2016 we sent to the Compulsory Healthcare Fund an official paper asking for information on the patients conditions in the American Hospital. However, even though all legal deadlines for replying to this requirement have expired, there has been no answer from this institution. On the other hand, the dialysis patients continue to go to the American Hospital three times a week bringing their sheets and meal with them.
American Hospital answers after the publication
After this story was published, American Hospital decided to answer officially, denying all the accuses of the patients treated with dyalisis.
Trying to be correct and neutral, we are publishing the letter brought at the editorial office of “Shëndet+” newspaper on May 11th 2016. The answer can be read here.
(This story is within the project “Act now! Denounce corruption on health system” which is implemented by “Together for Life” organization and supported by US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations in this story are of the authors and do not necesseraly represent those of US Department of State)