Friday, May 29
Latest News
  1. Iranian opposition: Iran, N. Korea 'collaborate' on nuclear arms
  2. More than 700 migrants rescued in Mediterranean
  3. Car bombs rock two upmarket Baghdad hotels, five dead
  4. Coalition strikes, fighting kill 40 rebels in Yemen's Aden
  5. Police: car bombs explode near two Baghdad hotels
  6. Myanmar rejects being 'singled out' by UN over migrant crisis at Thai
  7. Top US negotiator with Iran 'to leave after June 30 deadline'
  8. Ministry: Tunisia arrests 2nd Morocco suspect in Bardo attack
  9. Angolan activist gets six months suspended jail sentence
  10. Spain judge opens terrorism case against Boko Haram
  11. Minister: S.African president cleared in corruption scandal
  12. Etihad profits soar 52 percent on expansion, more passengers
  13. Cyprus holds Lebanese man over possible bomb material
  14. Two Saudi border guards die in Yemen shelling
  15. Catholic Church says withdrawing support for Burundi elections
  16. Libya issues warning after PM escapes assassination
  17. Nebraska becomes 19th US state to halt death penalty
  18. Referendum to ask should Britain 'remain' member of EU
  19. US army says 22 possibly exposed to anthrax at S. Korea base
  20. Minister: Malaysia believes 139 bodies in migrant graves

East Jerusalem hospitals face cash crisis

Nov. 6, 2012 6:22 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 8, 2012 9:59 P.M.)
By: Jihan Abdalla
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Six hospitals in East Jerusalem face a financial crisis because the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority has been unable to meet payments for their services, jeopardizing the healthcare of thousands of West Bank patients.

The Western-backed PA, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has built up debts of $18 million to the specialized healthcare centers this year.

Economic anxiety is rising following US sanctions and a shortfall of aid from rich Gulf states last year. The World Bank forecasts a $1.5 billion deficit in the 2012 PA budget.

Washington withheld $192 million after President Mahmoud Abbas said he would press on with a drive for observer status at the United Nations, defying US objections.

In September, public sector salary delays and fuel price hikes provoked violent street demonstrations in the West Bank.

"The moment the PA faces any financial difficulty, it stops paying. But the hospital must still take in patients," Tawfiq Nasser, head of the Augusta Victoria Hospital, told Reuters.

"We can no longer offer the same services and that is putting patients at risk, endangering their lives."

The East Jerusalem hospitals signed agreements with the PA in 1997 to admit patients from the West Bank and Gaza according to specialist referral. Costs were to be paid every month.

Ten months ago, the money stopped but patients kept coming.

Can't pay for medication

The World Health Organization says about 22,000 patients from the West Bank and Gaza were referred to East Jerusalem hospitals in 2011 -- more than half of their total intake.

The hospitals say they have gone on supplying chemotherapy, neurosurgery and dialysis, amassing large debts of their own to drug suppliers, and are struggling to pay staff salaries.

Nasser says the PA owes his hospital alone over $11 million, as it offers costly treatments not easily available in government-run hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Ministry of Health says it is struggling to secure at least some of the money owed to the hospitals.

"Referrals to East Jerusalem are increasing and we rely almost exclusively on these facilities for the rare specializations they offer," Health Minister Hani Abdeen told Reuters from his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Palestinians want their own state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel, which occupied the territories after the 1967 Middle East war, illegally annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognized internationally.

Israel prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from freely entering Jerusalem. It issues permits to people with hospital referrals needing medical treatment, some of whom are treated in Israeli hospitals.

The roughly 300,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are mostly covered by the Israeli healthcare system and do not receive treatment in any of the six cash-strapped hospitals.

The Augusta Victoria Hospital says about 84 percent of its income comes from the PA. It owes $5 million to private suppliers and will soon be unable to pay salaries.

"We can't blame drug suppliers if next month they say: sorry, we can no longer supply drugs without payment," Nasser said.

Powered By: HTD Technologies
Ma'an News Agency
All rights reserved © 2005-2015