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Two Jerusalem hospitals on the verge of closure

Imminent closure caused by the PNA’s failure to settle debts to them

Gulf News

Ramallah: Outstanding debts to the tune of 240 million Shekels (over $62 million or Dh227.5 million) owed by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to two key hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem may force the health facilities to shut down soon.

The PNA owes Al Makassed 110 million Shekels — 70 per cent of the hospital’s admissions are PNA medical transfers — and it owes the Motala’a hospital 130 million Shekels — more than 90 per cent of the hospital’s admissions are PNA transfers. This outstanding debt has left the hospitals unable to purchase basic medicines, medical equipment or fulfil other requirements. In addition, the two hospitals have been unable to meet their own debts to Israeli health centres, or to pay their staff salaries.

On Monday, staff members from both hospitals held a strike at the entrance of Al Makassed Hospital, calling on the PNA to settle its outstanding debts as soon as possible to spare the hospitals from imminent closure.

The PNA settled its 2015 debts last February, according to Rafiq Al Hussaini, the director-general of Al Makassed Hospital. However, it has not made any payments towards its 2016 debt, leaving the two hospitals in an extremely vulnerable position, and on the verge of total closure.

Al Hussaini, who is also the secretary-general of the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network, said that Jerusalem-based hospitals in general are facing major challenges, particularly with regard to financial sustainability.

“Al Makassed and Al Motala’a hospitals have been in direct contact with the Palestinian Health and Finance ministries to settle the outstanding debts,” Al Hussaini told Gulf News. “The debts have affected the performance of the two hospitals. Each of the hospitals has purchased 50 million Shekels’ worth of medicines from pharmaceutical companies, and neither has been able to settle that debt.”

The PNA transfers critical West Bank and Gazan patients to the East Jerusalem hospitals for treatment whenever West Bank hospitals are unable to handle their cases. Previously, the PNA used to transfer those cases to Israeli hospitals, which used to cost the Palestinian treasury a lot of money — money which Israel then deducted from the taxes and revenues collected on a monthly basis. Over the past few years, the PNA has, for the most part, replaced the Israeli hospitals with Palestinian-run ones in East Jerusalem for the treatment of such critical cases.

The two hospitals officially announced during the strike that unless the PNA pays a significant portion of its debts by the end of the month, they would no longer be willing to accept PNA transfer cases, unless they were extremely urgent.

“The two hospitals are unable to provide the medical theatres with the necessary medical equipment and other requirements,” the hospitals said in a statement issued during the strike.

“It is time for the PNA to stand by these two prominent hospitals and help them to survive by settling the outstanding debts,” said Al Hussaini. “The failure to do so will basically contradict PNA philosophy and will not support the security and survival of Jerusalemites.”