WHO: Palestinian patient referrals to Israeli hospitals dropped dramatically

JERUSALEM, Out of 2,489 Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) referrals in April for Gaza patients and 5,577 referrals for West Bank patients to non-MoH facilities, there were only four referrals for Gaza patients and 71 referrals for West Bank patients to Israeli hospitals, reflecting the Palestinian MoH’s decision in March to stop referrals to Israeli hospitals, apart from exceptional cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

For comparison, in 2017 there was an average of 346 referrals for Gaza patients and 1,010 referrals for West Bank patients to Israeli hospitals each month.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to reduce referrals to Israeli hospitals in response to Israel’s unilateral deduction of arbitrary amounts of money from the PA’s monthly tax clearance fund.

In April, 72% of Gaza referrals required Israeli-issued permits to reach hospitals in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, while 7% required access through Rafah terminal to access healthcare in Egypt. In the West Bank, 38% of referrals were to facilities in East Jerusalem or Israel, the majority of which require Israeli-issued permits to access care.

It its monthly report on patient referrals, WHO said 2,161 patient applications for healthcare were submitted in April to the Israeli authorities seeking permit to cross Erez/Beit Hanoun checkpoint with Gaza were to reach hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It said 29% were for children under age of 18 and 16% were for patients aged 60 years or older.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of applications to cross Erez were for appointments in East Jerusalem hospitals, one fifth (20%) for West Bank hospitals and 16% were for hospitals in Israel. The top five specialties accounted for more than 62% of permit applications: oncology (31%); pediatrics (8%); orthopedics (8%); hematology (8%); and cardiology (7%). The remaining 38% were for 25 other specialties.

Of the total applications, 1,396 (705 male; 691 female), or 65%, were approved. A third (34%) of permits approved were for children under age of 18 and a fifth (20%) were for people aged 60 years or older.

A total of 120 patient applications (80 male; 40 female), or 6% of the total, were denied permits to cross Erez for healthcare in April. Those denied included eight children under the age of 18 years and 19 patients aged 60 years or older.

A total of 28% of denied applications were for appointments in neurosurgery, 20% for orthopedics, 13% for oncology, and 8% for ophthalmology. 92% of denied permit applications were for appointments at hospitals in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The report said that 645 patient applications (383 male; 262 female), or 30% of the total, were delayed access to care, receiving no definitive response to their application by the date of their hospital appointment. Of these, 137 applications were for children under the age of 18 and 56 applications were for patients aged 60 years or older.

Twenty percent of those delayed had appointments for oncology, 12% for orthopedics and 8% for cardiology. The remaining 60% were for 24 other specialties. A total of 539 (83%) of the delayed applications were ‘under study’ at the time of appointment, while three applications were delayed because patients allegedly had relatives staying in the West Bank.

Nineteen permit applications in April were for those injured during demonstrations: 5 applications were approved, 3 denied and 11 delayed. As of 30 April, according to Gaza’s Coordination and Liaison Office, there had been 550 applications to Israeli authorities by those injured in demonstrations to exit Gaza via Erez crossing for healthcare. The approval rate of this group is significantly lower than the overall approval rate for patient applications to exit Gaza, with only 18% (96 applications) approved. 26% (145 applications) were denied and 56% (309) were delayed.

In April, 1,221 (52%) patient companion applications were approved, 194 applications (8%) were denied and the remaining 928 (40%) were delayed, receiving no definitive response by the time of the patient’s application.

Israeli forces arrested a patient companion at Erez crossing on 23 April 2019, on his return to Gaza, said the WHO report. Karam Tantawi from Khan-Yunis accompanied his wife Safaa’, a 47-year-old cancer patient, during her 23-day treatment at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. Karam was released without charge on 20 May.

Source: Palestinian News & Info Agency