The Physicians for Human Rights–Israel NGO and doctors at East Jerusalem hospitals objected on Sunday to the U.S. decision to cut the $20 million transferred by the U.S. government through USAID to hospitals in East Jerusalem. Many of these hospitals have been struggling with a continued economic crisis for many years.
Earlier Saturday it was announced the Trump administration has decided to completely cut the funding from its budget. A State Department official told Haaretz on Thursday that this decision is part of the administration’s broader approach of cutting Palestinian aid and investing it in other priorities.
The American funding joins 13 million euros transferred by the European Union, which jointly cover part of the debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to the hospitals. The money therefor does not fund hospitals in East Jerusalem, but patients in the West Bank.
East Jerusalem hospitals operate with an Israeli license and are supervised by the Health Ministry, but a substantial amount of their patients are residents of Gaza and the West Bank who come into Jerusalem for treatments, especially complex ones such as cancer treatment.
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The growing debt of the PA to the hospitals stands at 280 million shekels and heavily encumbers their performance. In recent years, nearly every hospital in East Jerusalem has fallen into financial troubles verging on bankruptcy, among other reasons, because of this debt.
"This sum is critical," says Walid Namur, CEO of the Augusta Victoria Hospital and head of the Paestinian Hospitals Association in Jerusalem. "There are hospitals who can't afford off-the-counter pain pills; some have enough money to last a month. This is a very big sum for us."
"This is definitely significant," added Dr. Maher al-Dib, Director of St. Joseph Hospital, "but it's possible to survive even without the American donation, it won't topple the system."
"The Trump administration's decision is a critical blow to the healthcare system, which treats hundreds of thousands of Palestinian every year," a statement by the Physicians for Human Rights–Israel, an NGO operating out of Jaffa which works to for equal medical treatment for all populations in Israel.
"Hospitals in East Jerusalem have been in financial distress for some time, and closing the tap could lead to their complete collapse whilst withholding the right to health from dozens of patients."
Israel, the statement said, would bear the burden of responsibility in such a scenario.
"Therefore, Israel cannot stand aside – it must to everything to foil the decision by the Trump administration or prepare to take responsibility for the health of Palestinians found under its direct or indirect control."