Jerusalem hospitals need $7 million to deal with coronavirus emergency

Israeli police check papers of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City, as movements are limited to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (AP)
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Updated 02 April 2020

Jerusalem hospitals need $7 million to deal with coronavirus emergency

  • ‘International humanitarian law is very clear about the responsibility of the occupying powers’

AMMAN: An East Jerusalem medical official expects that in order to meet the expected emergency caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Jerusalem’s hospitals will need a minimum of $7 million. 

  Dr. Walid Nammour, the secretary of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network (EJHN), told Arab News that an emergency plan would come at a terrible time for Palestinian hospitals. “This emergency comes after three consecutive years in which we have been unable to cover basic cost of referrals from the Palestinian Ministry of Health due to external political decisions,” he said. 

 Nammour, who is the director of the Augusta Victoria Hospital, said that the abrupt decision by the US government to defund $25 million annually from Jerusalem’s hospitals had left a huge budget gap. 

  “Our situation is very dire, we had been going through financial troubles even before COVID-19 — this has added to our existing situation. Nevertheless we have a moral and patriotic duty to support the needs of our people,” he said. 

Nammour said that the Augusta Victoria Hospital was the only hospital that provides cancer treatment to 5 million Palestinians, as well as dialysis treatment to children as well. 

Established in 1997 with support from the late Faisal Husseini, the EJHN comprises six medical facilities: Augusta Victoria Hospital, Makassed Islamic Charitable Hospital, St. John Eye Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital, the Red Crescent Society Hospital, and the Jerusalem Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children. 

Nammour said the hospitals needed $4.5 million for basic infrastructure and major equipment, and $2.5 million for protective personal equipment. 

“We expect to need 300-400 ventilators, yet we only have access to 26 ventilators. If the virus hits Jerusalem without being prepared we will be in big trouble.” 

Ahmad Budeiri, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance to Deal with the Coronavirus, told Arab News that volunteers were working hard to provide support to the medical staff by trying to provide hotel rooms to doctors so they did not need to travel across Israeli checkpoints. 

Palestinians are also trying to revive midwifery by encouraging expected couples to give birth at home. 

“We are encouraging families (to allow women) to give birth at home with the help of midwives so as not to put strain on hospitals and to protect them from the virus if they leave their homes,” Budeiri said. 

Faisal Husseini’s son, Abdel Qader Husseini, said that Israel must bear its responsibility in taking care of Palestinians under occupation. 

“International humanitarian law is very clear about the responsibility of the occupying powers,” he said. 

Husseini also welcomed the call by members of the US Congress to rescind the administration of US President Donald Trump’s decision to defund Jerusalem’s hospitals. 

“The coronavirus is a global pandemic that requires a revisit of previous decisions. If this doesn’t change people’s minds, I don’t know what will,” he said. 


WHO denies Houthi ‘faulty testing kit’ claims

Updated 26 min ago

WHO denies Houthi ‘faulty testing kit’ claims

  • The batch of almost 7,000 COVID-19 test kits provided to Yemen by the WHO are the same PCR test kits provided to over 120 countries
  • Yemeni Prime Minister says the Houthis have suppressed information about the pandemic

AL-MUKALLA: The World Health Organization (WHO) office in Yemen has rejected a claim by Iran-backed Houthis that COVID-19 test kits provided by the organization are faulty and hampered their efforts to declare an accurate number of infections in their territories.

In a statement seen by Arab News, the WHO said that the kits were made in Germany and have been used in 120 countries.

“The batch of almost 7,000 COVID-19 test kits provided to Yemen by the WHO are the same PCR test kits provided to over 120 countries. An estimated 2 million of these kits were manufactured by TIB Molbiol, a company based in Germany,” the statement said.

Under local and international pressure to disclose accurate information about the pandemic in their territories, Houthi Health Minister Taha Al-Mutwakel said in a press conference on May 30 that one reason they did not reveal the number of infections in areas under their control was faulty testing kits that returned false positive results on non-human samples.

The WHO said: “The PCR test kits manufactured by TIB Molbiol met ISO standards for quality manufacturing. The kits were tested and validated by three external laboratories, and the validation results were published in a peer-reviewed journal.”

Despite ruling the most densely populated areas in Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, the Houthis have reported only two deaths and two recoveries.

In less-populated liberated provinces, the Aden-based National Coronavirus Committee reported on Tuesday 45 new coronavirus cases, including three deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 399, including 86 deaths and 15 recoveries.

Speaking at the virtual donors conference hosted by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said the Houthis have suppressed information about the pandemic, and intimidated Yemeni doctors and relatives of coronavirus patients who might speak out about their ordeal.

“The Houthis have rejected and disregarded all our initiatives for working together to fight the pandemic,” Saeed said.  

In Aden, Dr. Ishraq Al-Subaee, a spokesman for the National Coronavirus Committee, told Arab News on Wednesday that there is no direct communication between the committee and Houthi health authorities.

“There is indirect cooperation through international agencies. There is great secrecy about the scale of the pandemic inside Houthi-controlled areas,” she said.

Suppression

Ironically, when the Houthi health chief was boasting about the health-care facilities and accusing the WHO of wrongdoing, a Houthi militia official was using social media to appeal for help after developing symptoms of COVID-19.

Ahmed Al-Hubaishi, a media adviser to the Houthi Supreme Political Council, wrote on Twitter, urging Houthi officials to send a medical team to his house. “I suffer from acute and intermittent fever, dry and severe coughing, and difficulty breathing,” he said.

Al-Hubaishi died on Wednesday of the virus. But instead of saying his father died of coronavirus based on his post, Al-Hubaishi’s son deleted his father’s old posts about his illness and said that he had died of diabetes, another indication of pressure on the families of infected people, experts said.

At the same time, new amateur videos posted on social media showed health workers in white protective clothing burying victims of COVID-19 in Sanaa and other northern provinces.

Confirmed images also show a notice from Houthis outside a closed cemetery in Sanaa, saying the cemetery was full.

Experts in Yemen believe that the health situation in Sanaa and other areas under Houthi control is dire, despite their efforts to suppress information about deaths and infections.

Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, whose news site extensively covered COVID-19 deaths in Houthi areas, told Arab News that he had documented the deaths of at least 30 doctors since early May. 

“They suppress information about the pandemic because they want life to continue as it is. The disruption of life would have an impact on their mobilization and recruitment efforts,” he said, adding that many COVID-19 patients prefer to isolate themselves at home to avoid Houthi harassment.

Al-Subaee said that her colleagues in different health facilities in Sanaa told her they receive more than 100 new virus cases every day. 

“The infection has spread through society. Doctors in our Whatsapp group say that Kuwait hospital alone receives 90 coronavirus patients in 24 hours,” she said.