|‘A Hospital Cannot Function With Doctors Alone.’|
Salam Kana’an used to drive to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) Maternity Hospital in East Jerusalem in just over 15 minutes. Now, she sets out two hours before her shift starts to be on time. As the Nursing Director, she struggles to maintain her staff’s operational schedule due to the Israeli permit regime and delays at checkpoints.
‘We used to have difficulties before the construction of the Barrier, because the permit regime predates it. But since three, four years, when the Barrier became effective in Jerusalem, the situation became worse. Depending on where you live you can only use a certain checkpoint. If the checkpoint is closed or the queues are long, you have a problem. Before the construction of the Barrier, you had alternative routes. But not any more.
There is a bus system for medical staff. But the buses run only for the morning shift. And then, each bus has to be accompanied by a so-called ‘security officer’, someone who holds a Jerusalem ID card. We have only one such person and whenever he is sick or on leave, the whole bus is held up. Most of the time, we then have to join the queue with all the workers and the time you take to pass is incalculable.
About seventy percent of our 57 nurses at the PRCS Maternity Hospital come from the West Bank, and almost every day someone is delayed at the checkpoint or even turned back. A common problem is that the machine at the checkpoint does not recognize your fingerprint. This has happened to every one of us. Just last month, two doctors and a nurse could not come to work because their fingerprints were not recognized.
Doctors have a special stamp in their permit, which allows them facilitated passage at any checkpoint. But a hospital cannot function with doctors alone. For any operation - and in our case, the 250 to 290 births per month - the doctor needs nurses who assist him. In emergencies we cannot bring in additional nurses quickly. To be prepared for emergency cases, we oblige the staff member who is on stand-by to remain at the hospital. This leads to additional costs and impairs the staff member’s private life.’
‘There is no Care Here for Our Daughter at All’In addition to separating large parts of East Jerusalem and its population from the rest of the West Bank, the Barrier leaves approximately 1,500 West Bank ID card holders on the ‘Jerusalem’ side of the Barrier. On such community is Um Al Asafir: residents face access restrictions to their health and education services on the ‘Palestinian’ side of the Barrier.
Eight and a half year old Ala’ Zawahri is mentally and physically handicapped. Living in a house trapped between Har Homa settlement and the Barrier, her parents have to make an arduous journey to Bethlehem or to Beit Sahur to obtain medical services for their daughter.
‘Just last week, we needed to bring Ala’ to the doctor. She cannot speak, but when she cries, we know something is wrong, because usually she is very quiet. When she was little, we could drive to Bethlehem or Beit Sahur in less than 15 minutes. That was before the Barrier was built just outside our home. Now we have to find a taxi driver who actually comes here, to drive us to Gilo checkpoint. We then cross on foot carrying Ala’ in our arms. Then we take another taxi to the clinic or hospital. All together 45 shekels for one way. Most of the time, this takes one to one-and-a-half hours.
Ala’ cannot eat by herself, she cannot even sit up. Most of the time she just lies quietly on her couch. She needs constant care and the doctor says that she will need it all her life. Here, where we live, there is no care for Ala’ at all, no doctor, no mobile clinic. Nobody even supports us in taking care of her. About 100 meters from here, in the Israeli settlement, there is everything. But we are not allowed to go there. We have West Bank ID cards, although we live on the Jerusalem side of the Barrier.
We have repeatedly tried to register Ala’ for health insurance, but without success, despite the Palestinian Authority officials’ awareness of her case. Fifty-three members of our family live here in Um Al Asafir – nobody has health insurance. A friendly doctor in Bethlehem used to treat Ala’ for free. But he died. Now we not only have to pay for transport and medicine, but for doctors’ visits too. All in all, over 500 shekels since last year.
We have six other children. They are older and live with relatives in Beit Sahur in order to go to school and university easily. From the hill outside our house we can see where they stay – but in order to visit their handicapped sister Ala’ they need to make the long journey through the checkpoint.’