Over the last decades, pediatrics cancer survival rates have increased tremendously. To what do you attribute CCCL's outstanding survival rate?
CCCL has been here for the past 13 years, during which time we have made several efforts, which is why CCCL is considered a leading regional center in the treatment of cancer in children. Our cure rate is 80%, which also makes us more committed to helping these children. There is a specific ceiling that is covered by the Ministry of Health, while we or any other third party payer has to cover all the balance not covered by the Ministry. We cover 100% of the cost for patients that are not Lebanese or do not have any other payers, and we clarify this to the community immediately in order for them to know that we need this amount of money, which is $15 million per year. Having the mission of treating children with no discrimination and no cost to the parents is challenging, in order to raise the necessary funds. Being affiliated with Saint Jude Research Hospital in Memphis and AUBMC opens doors for research, rigorous treatment protocols, as well as for training facilities and expertise, all of which helps to improve the cure rate. Being at the AUBMC, having access to the highly-trained medical personnel and the psychological and administrative professionals, also plays a major role in having a high recovery rate. Having 13 years of experience, CCCL understands how trends in the healthcare sector are moving, and we are blessed by the support of CCCL's support. Without having had the support of our donors, we would not be here; this is a crucial aspect that we have to highlight all the time. We have the trust of the donors and the commitment of our medical and administrative team, and these are the major factors enabling our commitment to this cause. Sometimes we offer other services, or collaborate with other pediatric cancer centers in Lebanon and the region, in order to help them use these protocols and ensure that the best treatment and protocols are provided to as many children as possible.
How does the regional turmoil affect CCCL?
In Lebanon, everything affects donations, not only in terms of stability of the country, but also in terms of the economic situation. The past two years have been very challenging, particularly in regards to the Syrian crisis. Our mission is not to refuse children; however, because of the limited capacity the center can accommodate we have collaborated with St. Jude and assigned a specific fund in 2013 solely for the treatment of refugees. The fund was set up to cope with the added pressure and to continue to provide the same treatment for the current patients as well as for the new ones coming from Lebanon. $15 million is a huge amount and cannot be raised only from having events and programs in Lebanon. We have our fundraising programs and in Lebanon to raise more than 70% of the total amount; however, we have a few events that we hold in other countries so we can attract donations to cope with the highest number of patients possible.
What are the origins of CCCL patients?
We welcome patients regardless of where they are coming from—we do not discriminate, that is our mission. There are no basic restrictions for people residing in Lebanon. Lebanese patients have other party guarantors like the Ministry of Health, and we are very thankful for all of their efforts with their provided services to the Lebanese patient. However, the foreign patients do not have these third-party guarantors and probably the cost will be twice as much than the Lebanese citizen's cost, so we try to maintain a balanced split, and do not increase it more than 25% of the total number of accepted patients in the year. During the past 13 years we have provided consultations and diagnostic tests to more than 4,000 patients, and these play a major role in the treatment because proper diagnoses leads to better cure rates and better survival. Our doors are open to as many patients as we can accommodate, and the provision of the free diagnostic tests and consultations is a major factor. It helps the patients to know, and it helps other doctors to collaborate with the Children Cancer Center in order to follow the same protocols, which are considered some of the best in the world.
What is your assessment of the development of the healthcare sector in Lebanon?
In comparison with other countries, Lebanon has high levels of expertise in terms of doctors and nurses and the service provided. Regardless of whether or not we have proper infrastructure, in general we are up to the technological systems that are being used all over the world. In addition we have coped with these developments and innovations and still we are considered one of the major destinations for people to get good treatment. Applying AUBMC's accreditation and certifications enables our doctors and nurses to provide the children with proper treatment and services. The Ministry of Health is also doing a great job supporting many hospitals to provide more services to a greater number of people from Lebanon and beyond.