Worse than every Palestinian’s fear of being involved in a car accident or contracting a disease is the fear of going to a hospital for treatment.
It is a very unfortunate fact that Palestinian hospitals across the West Bank and Gaza, especially those in the more marginalized communities, suffer greatly from a severe decline in their infrastructure, which in turn impacts badly on the quality of health care services that they provide. From superficial problems such as peeling paint and water damage to major problems such as obsolete equipment and a shortage of doctors, the problems are widespread.
Yet despite these gloomy indicators, efforts are being made every day to counteract the problems in the health care system. The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health (MoH) is working with non-profits and international donors to identify key targets for assistance and to coordinate assistance efforts. Hospitals in Jericho, Nablus, Beit Jala, and Ramallah were all identified as needing immediate, major rehabilitation. Because these hospitals are run by the Palestinian Authority, they are the only destination for poor Palestinians who cannot afford private treatment. Each hospital was assessed by Anera in close coordination with the MoH and US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Rafidya Hospital in Nablus is the largest referral hospital in the northern West Bank and hence receives patients from all across the Palestinian Territory. Major work is ongoing in several different sections of the hospital, including the operation theaters, the recovery rooms, the intensive care unit, the burns unit, the blood bank, and the outpatient clinics. Even more exciting, however, is the installation of LED surgical lighting systems and six cameras which will enable live transmission of the operations for young medical students to observe and study. This intervention in itself will have a long-term impact on the Palestinian health system by helping to train future doctors and nurses.
One of the first things one notices upon entering the Jericho Governmental Hospital is the acrid smell of sewage. Indeed, the major problems at the hospital include sewage leakage, faulty air conditioning (A/C) systems, exposed pipes, moldy walls and ceilings, a lack of proper drainage (rendering many patient bathrooms unusable), and a shortage of space. Work is ongoing to tackle these problems and others by replacing the sewage and drainage system, installing new ventilation and A/C systems, constructing new sections of the hospital (in particular, a kidney dialysis unit and medical staff lodgings), in addition to basic works such as re-plastering and tiling, painting, and electrical works.
The Beit Jala Governmental Hospital caters to the needs of 170,000 Palestinians and has the only oncology centre to serve the people of Beit Jala and the Ramallah and Hebron governorates. An assessment of the hospital revealed a long list of needs, including rehabilitation of the emergency unit, the outpatient clinics, the X-ray department, the surgery department, the kidney dialysis unit, the endoscopy department, and the intensive care unit. Much of the ongoing work involves re-plastering and re-tiling, replacing damaged ceilings, covering exposed piping, installing proper water and drainage systems as well as A/C and ventilation systems, and replacing and securing electrical and medical gas works.
The Ramallah Governmental Hospital, now part of the newly christened Palestine Medical Complex, will undergo major works in the near future. Its entire first floor will be remodelled, involving the emergency, neonatal, and obstetrics wards. The “old building” will be completely renovated, while two bridges will be constructed to connect the various buildings of the complex. Currently, the Ramallah Hospital’s radiology department is being completely overhauled, with new partitioning, re-plastering and painting, new piping, mechanical and electrical installations and a new A/C and heating system.
The Impact is in the Details
Although the list of needs for intervention can be repetitive and monotonous, each detail can significantly influence the ability of doctors and nurses to save lives. Once the interventions are completed, each newly renovated hospital will be ready to receive new equipment, be better prepared to train new staff, and be able to provide a higher quality of health care for its patients. A positive hospital experience can also incentivise young men and women to pursue careers in the health sector. In short, the benefits can be immeasurable.
The future is now brighter for Palestinians. As the government’s state-building plan declares, a belief in hard work, coupled with faith in the ability to create new realities on the ground, will clear the path to freedom. Through cooperation and communication amongst the PA, the Palestinian people, NGOs, and international donors, needs can be identified, assessed, and treated successfully.