Ramallah: Private and charitable hospitals in the Palestinian territories have threatened to close down due to the accumulating debts of the Ministry of Health of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

The ministry has failed to settle its debts to the hospitals for seven months leaving those hospitals unable to pay the salaries of employees, leaving pharmaceutical companies refusing to provide those hospitals with their necessary supplies of drugs and medical needs.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health and Military Medical Service Department have both been transferring cases to private and charitable hospitals due to the PNA’s own cash crunch, and payments have not been made.

“If payment is not made in three weeks time, we will close down the hospital, which will in turn not be able to pay the wages of its workers for this month,” said Dr Abdul Rahim Kitanah, the General Manager of Nablus Specialised Hospital, which is owed 30 million Israeli shekels (Dh30m). “Either the PNA saves the private hospitals or those hospitals will sink once and for all.”

The last PNA payment was made in November 2012 with regular promises of further payments.

“The PNA has never stood for its promises, but now we have reached the no return point,” said Dr Kitanah, whose hospital owes 14 million shekels to pharmaceutical companies which have been refusing to resupply the hospital. “We are in an extremely critical condition,” he told Gulf News.

Dr Sameer Al Khayat, the manger of the Arabian Specialised Hospital to which the PNA owes 50 million shekels, said that most the West Bank and Gaza Strip hospitals will be forced to close down if payments are not made immediately.

“The problem here is the PNA failure to make regular payments to facilitate running the private hospitals,” he told Gulf News. “This condition can no more continue and there should be an immediate solution.”

The PNA Ministry of Health expressed its complete understanding about the demands of the private and charitable hospitals and their urgent need to get paid at the earliest. “We hope a portion of the PNA debts will be paid soon,” said Dr Omar Al Nasser, who heads the Public Relation Department at the Ministry of Health.

He said that the ministry is in debt of 670 million shekels to the private hospitals in the Palestinian territories and Jordanian and Egyptian hospitals.

Israel hospitals, however deduct, 12-15 million shekels annually for the medical services provided to Palestinian patients from money transferred by the PNA. “Israeli medical charges are automatically deducted from the Palestinian tax revenues which Israel collects on behalf of the PNA,” he told Gulf News.

He stressed that the Ministry of Health suffers the most due to the ongoing cash crisis.

“The ministry does not have the necessary funds to pay back the private hospitals,” he said, adding that the ministry has recently reduced and restricted the number of patients transferred to private hospitals.

The Union of the Private and Charitable Hospitals in the Palestinian territories has officially requested hospitals which cannot receive transferred patients to refuse them. “We have given the Palestinian Military Medical Service Department a two-week grace period to settle their due debts, or else their transferred patients will no more be received in the hospitals,” said Dr Nizam Najeeb, who heads the union in an interview with Gulf News.

Dr Nizam said that hospitals will turn to other measures to get their rights including protests and suspension of services in a way which does not affect receiving patients and providing them with the medical services.