Lebanon's American University of Beirut Medical Center lays off hundreds of employees

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The American University of Beirut’s medical center laid off hundreds of employees Friday as a result of the devastating socioeconomic crisis in Lebanon, including arrears close to the amount of $150 million from the country’s government.

Local media had different figures for the number of employees let go with some outlets reporting that it was 500 and others saying it was 850.

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Mohammad Ali Qassem, one of the laid-off employees, who is battling cancer, said he had worked at the medical center for 27 years. “In 27 years, I never took a day of sick leave,” he said, fighting back tears.

“Do they want us to steal or emigrate? Let us ask those in charge of this state and this government,” another man asked, placing the blame on Lebanon's political elite.

Friday’s moves come as AUB President Fadlo Khuri recently lamented the government for not paying $150 million in arrears to the university’s hospital. Khuri said Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government was the “worst” in Lebanon’s history for its disregard for higher education, which AUBMC is part of.

Diab, in the meantime, has filed a lawsuit against AUB, seeking $1 million to be paid in US dollars to a foreign bank account.

Read more: Lebanon PM’s lawyers admit to suing AUB, threaten Al Arabiya English

In previous interviews, Khuri has cited the university as the second largest employer in Lebanon behind the state, with 6,500 employees, but admitted that it would be forced to lay off around 25 percent of its employees. Other staff and administration have reportedly taken a pay cut.

Some AUB alumni on social media criticized the heavy security presence near the campus and medical center during the layoffs on Friday. A Reuters witness saw 10 army vehicles nearby.

“I spent days and nights at this university, it’s my home,” said Khaled al-Homsi, 59, a father of five who worked at AUBMC for 35 years. “And in the end, you get tossed out.”

- With Reuters

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