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.