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PA says crisis resolved after East Jerusalem hospital turned patients away over debt

May 7, 2017 2:24 P.M. (Updated: May 7, 2017 10:02 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Health Jawad Awwad announced on Sunday afternoon that an agreement had been reached with a hospital in occupied East Jerusalem after the medical facility had said earlier in the day that it would no longer accept new patients, owing to a “crisis level” financial situation due to excessive delays in payments from the Palestinian Authority (PA) amounting to some $41.78 million.

After a meeting with Augusta Victor Hospital General Manager Walid Nammur and Director of Operations Atif Rimawi, Awwad said that the situation “had been resolved," and that the hospital would resume accepting patients referred to by the ministry.

The minister added in a statement that an agreement was reached on "all unresolved issues" in coordination with Palestinian Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara, and that "we will do our best to end the crises facing Jerusalem hospitals."

The private Augusta Victoria Hospital, which receives patients referred by the Palestinian Ministry of Health from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, had previously warned of the mounting financial crisis last November in a joint statement with East Jerusalem hospital al-Maqasid, that alleged the PA owed the two hospitals a cumulative $62.5 million at the time.

The statement warned that if the PA continued to delay payments, both hospitals would not be able to buy the medical equipment they urgently needed, and consequently would not be able to receive patients who needed surgeries.

More than five months later, Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) declared earlier on Sunday that it had been forced to turn away new patients.

A press release stated that debt from the PA owed to the hospital reached 150 million shekels (approximately $41.78 million) as of April 30, which was equivalent to an entire year of medical services for patients from the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank referred by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

“This crisis becomes more acute every day that passes. Every day, more and more patients are referred to AVH with little or no payments from the PA,” the AVH statement had said, adding that the PA’s debts to the hospital increased by an average of 14 million shekels ($3.9 million) a month.

AVH said that 23 million shekels ($6.41 million) were needed immediately “just the cover the costs of of medications vital to the treatment of children, women, and men relying on the cancer and kidney services of AVH.”

“It is very unfortunate the AVH management is compelled for financial reasons not to accept patients, particularly new patients, who require expensive medications unavailable at the hospital for chemotherapy and other treatments,” the statement continued.

AVH had warned that medications at its pharmacies were “nearly depleted, dipping below the red line set by management to be the minimum amount needed for the efficient and safe medical performance of a hospital of the size and type of AVH.”

The Palestinian Authority has faced crippling financial crises with regularity since its inception in 1994, due in large part to its lack of control over resources and trade because of Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, serious structural deficiencies in the ways the PA collects and allocates funds, and decreases in donor funding.

In January, more than 200 employees of a private hospital in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron went on strike in protest of not having received salaries for three months, due to outstanding debts from PA amounting to millions of dollars.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health refers thousands of patients who have government insurance to private hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem when public hospitals cannot provide advanced medical care, such as surgery or cancer treatment.
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