East Jerusalem's Hospitals Are Good, but Access to Them Is Limited

Most patients and staff are residents of the West Bank, which has become increasingly inaccessible due to the separation fence and its system of permits.

Both of East Jerusalem's hospitals are generally considered to be quality institutions that provide good service to their patients, most of whom are Palestinians from the West Bank. The Al-Mukassad Hospital, for example, is considered the Palestinian version of Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center.

However, while the service provided in East Jerusalem's hospitals may be comparable to that found in the western part of the city, accessibility to the institutions themselves is problematic.

Shoafat checkpoint - Michal Fattal - 23122011
Michal Fattal

According to Fouad Abu Ahmad, who runs two clinics in East Jerusalem, the scope of services that hospitals are able to provide their patients in that part of the city is limited due to the licensing system maintained by Israel's health maintenance organizations. As a result, a person's health insurance may cover an operation, but not a visit to the emergency room.

According to Physicians for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization, one of the most problematic parts of East Jerusalem's medical system is its emergency medical services.

According to statistics, between July and September of 2011 there were 204 cases in which patients needed to be taken to the emergency room in an ambulance. In no less than 80 percent of these cases Magen David Adom teams demanded a police escort for the ambulance. This, says PHR, significantly increases the time it takes to evacuate a patient or wounded person, potentially risking lives.

Magen David Adom has claimed more than once that its demand for police escorts is the result of past experience, in which teams have been attacked by local residents and forced to flee. However, the data shows that in many cases escort is required even in areas that are not considered hostile.

Various human rights organizations claim that the separation fence, along with the system of permits that goes along with it, hinders the provision of medical services to residents, as in many cases the road to the hospital has been made considerably longer.

A UN report published in 2008 found that out of over one thousand hospital workers in East Jerusalem, around 70 percent are residents of the West Bank. They are also finding it increasingly difficult to secure entry and employment permits, which directly affects the proper functioning of the hospitals in East Jerusalem.

Until last weekend, West Bank residents who sought treatment in East Jerusalem's hospitals were forced to endure checks and delays on their way back to the West Bank as well. This procedure was halted last weekend, following a request made by Physicians for Human Rights to the Civil Administration. According to the organization, this is a small step in the right direction.