Sunday, July 29, 2012
External Medical Treatment Department in Gaza Closed
The offices of External Medical Treatment Department in Gaza Closed for the 3rd Consecutive Day due to the political wrangling between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. And who is suffering? Why, the sick of course. Following is a report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. This is the Palestinian version of Human Rights
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) follows with utmost concern the continued closure of the offices of the External Medical Treatment Department in Gaza, and warns of the serious repercussions this closure on the health conditions of hundreds of Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip who desperately need advanced medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip. PCHR calls for the exclusion of health services from the political conflict, and for prioritizing the interest of hundreds of patients who suffer from serious diseases and wait to be referred to hospitals outside the Gaza Strip to receive advanced medical treatment that is not available in the Gaza Strip.
According to PCHR’s research, the current crisis emerged on 15 July 2012, when Dr. Hani Aabdin, Minister of Health in the Ramallah Government, issued a decision appointing Dr. Fathi al-Hajj as the director of the External Medical Treatment Department, replacing Dr. Bassam al-Badri, the former director of the Department, and forming a technical committee chaired by Dr. Sa’id al-Hussieni with 9 different doctors as members. Dr. al-Badri stated to PCHR that when he received the decision issued by the Minister of Health in the Ramallah government on Monday morning, 15 July 2012, he took his belongings from the office and went home.
On Tuesday morning, 16 July 2012, Dr. Fathi al-Hajj went to the office of the External Medical Treatment Department to assume the responsibilities of his new post. At the same time, Dr. Hussein ‘Aashour, Director of Internal Control in the Ministry of Health in Gaza, arrived at the office of the Department and informed Dr. Fathi al-Hajj that the Minister of Health in Gaza rejects the formation of the technical committee by the Minister of Health in the Ramallah Government because it violates the agreement that was concluded 3 years ago, under which the formation of the technical committee must be agreed upon between the Ministries of Health in Ramallah and Gaza. Dr. ‘Aashour also informed Dr. al-Hajj that he must leave the office, though other staff members could stay in the office to continue their work. Conversely, Dr. Fathi al-Hajj stated that he was as surprised as the other staff members that “the offices were stormed by security services, in addition to 2 directors in the Ministry of Health, who insisted on expelling us from the offices.”
On Tuesday, 17 July 2012, the Ministry of Health in the Ramallah Government issued a statement on its website justifying, what it called, urgent administrative decisions needed to make procedural changes in the External Medical Treatment Department in Gaza. The Ministry stated that these administrative decisions were necessary to meet the needs of patients and ease their suffering.
PCHR follows with the utmost concern these developments in the External Medical Treatment Department in Gaza, and their disastrous impact on hundreds of Palestinian patients in Gaza who need the advanced medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip that is provided through the Department. PCHR believes that:
- The current crisis in the External Medical Treatment Department is reminiscent of a previous crisis in the Department in March and April 2009, which left serious impacts on the lives of patients in the Gaza Strip, including the deaths of 10 patients;
- The decisions taken by the Minister of Health in the Ramallah Government violate the agreement that put an end to the previous crisis, under which the formation of the technical committee must be agreed upon between the Ministries of Health in Ramallah and Gaza, which was brokered by a committee comprised of PCHR; the health sector in the Palestinian NGO Network; and Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, and sponsored by the World Health Organization;
- Accordingly, the formation of the technical committee (the Higher Medical Committee for External Medical Treatment) is possible as it is a purely professional issue, but it needs to be agreed upon between the Ministries of Health in Ramallah and Gaza according to the previous agreement, which defined several criteria with regards to the work of the External Medical Treatment Department in the Gaza Strip, based on prioritizing the best interest of patients and providing them with the most attainable level of physical and mental health care services apart from the political conflict;
- The continued closure of the External Medical Treatment Department affects approximately 70 patients daily, in addition to emergency cases which need prompt action, in particular the dozens of patients that have referred to PCHR’s offices since the beginning of the current crisis seeking assistance to receive referrals from the External Medical Treatment Department; and
- Each Palestinian has the right to enjoy the most attainable level of physical and mental health is a basic right that the Palestinian Authority must ensure, in accordance with international human rights standards and the Palestinian Basic Law. So, the parties that are responsible for providing health services must take all necessary steps to facilitate the access of Palestinians to health services.