BEIRUT: A prominent figure in Lebanon’s anti-government protests nicknamed “doctor of the poor” has died after he was unable to pay a $39 hospital fee.
Dr. Mohammed Ajami became a nationwide sensation for supporting poor people at protest sites during the October 2019 demonstrations against Lebanon’s ailing government. He was often seen providing free medication and treatment to those unable to afford care in hospitals.
Ajami was injured in a car accident on Sunday and left the hospital after he was asked to pay 500,000 Lebanese pounds ($39), according to his friends and family.
The doctor and his close friend, Ali Moughnieh, had taken part in a demonstration at Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square in the afternoon. As he returned to his village, Maarakeh, in southern Lebanon the car he was traveling in suffered a burst tyre, hit a barricade and overturned.
Ajami was conscious when he was rushed to Ala’eddine Hospital in Al-Saraf near the Beirut-Tyre highway.
Moughnieh said Ajami had coughed up some blood but was “awake and conscious” when taken to the hospital.
In an emotional video he said they waited for three hours for Ajami’s son to bring money to them.
“They (the hospital) had denied him admission without money,” Moughnieh said.
The hospital’s director Dr. Hassan Ala’eddine denied that Ajami had been refused admission for treatment.
He said Ajami arrived at the hospital at 6.30 p.m. with head trauma and abdominal pain and asked to by himself without undergoing a scan.
However, he returned within an hour with more pain and swelling in his abdomen and looking pale.
Scans showed that Ajami had bleeding in the spleen and liver along a rupture of the main arteries. He was admitted for urgent surgery, but later died in intensive care from a cardiac arrest.
Ajami’s nephew, Ahmad Suleiman, who is also a doctor, told Arab News that his uncle became irritated when the hospital asked him for money for a scan and so he left.
“Later he returned when his situation worsened,” Suleiman said.
He said the hospital should have admitted his injured uncle immediately, especially given that the car had overturned several times.
He said they would ask the health ministry to investigate.
Ajami, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, became well-known in Lebanon through his constant presence in almost every demonstration since protests erupted in 2019.
He often appeared in social media videos at protests, calling for the removal of corrupt politicians and demanding for the poor to have access to free medication and improved health care.
Suleiman said that despite his uncle’s own financial state, he always helped the poor.