Ref: RAD 12 (Jan. 30, 2014)
Summary: December 2013
A patient arrested at Erez checkpoint
Mohammed Saber Abu-Amsha, a 33-year-old patient from Beit Hanoun, was referred for treatment for an ophthalmic condition; he also suffers from chronic hepatitis. He was detained on December 4 by Israeli security forces at Erez crossing en route to hospital in Ramallah. According to his lawyer, Mohammed has been under interrogation in Ashkelon prison since his detention. Mohammed's personal items were confiscated, including his mobile phone and $900 he was carrying when he crossed the Erez checkpoint. Mohammed's wife and 4 children cannot visit or speak with him, but have received assurances from the lawyer that he has had medical checks in the prison and his health condition is good. As of this date, Mohammed was still in detention.
During 2013, 5 patients and 6 patient-companions from Gaza were detained by Israeli security forces in similar circumstances, according to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.
Referrals reflect needs and local capacity
The Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza referred 1,511 patients to outside hospitals in December, 8% higher than the monthly average for 2013. 31.8% of referrals were to hospitals in East Jerusalem (480) and 23.8% to Israel (360). Referrals to Gaza non-MoH facilities were highest of 2013 (294) (Chart 1). Referrals to Egypt remained lower than usual; the average number of referrals in the first half of 2013 was 300, but fell to half that (150) in the second half of the year, reflecting the unstable border and internal situation in Egypt (Table 1).
Access through Erez
In December 2013, 1,181 (86.71%) of 1,362 patient applications were granted for permits to cross Erez to access hospitals in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or in Israel or Jordan (Table 2). Four patients (1 female; 3 males) with appointments for treatment in ophthalmology and orthopedics were denied access through Erez to specialized hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Fourteen patients, including one female, were called for security interviews by the Israeli General Security Services (GSS) as a condition to process their application. To date, only one patient has been granted a permit following the interview.
The volume of permit applications for health access increased by 48% in 2013 compared to the same period in 2012 and the approval rate declined by 4.5%. Applicants were twice as likely to be delayed in 2013 (Table 3).
11 kidney transplant staff from Shifa hospital denied access through Erez checkpoint for UK training
Eleven MoH medical staff participating in a kidney transplant program supported by a Liverpool hospital and the PalMed-UK Association were denied access through Erez to travel to Jordan for flights to the UK. The team, comprising a nephrologist, a radiologist, a histopathologist, a vascular surgeon, an ICU nurse, a nurse supervisor, two operation theater nurses, and two lab technicians, was due to travel to the UK on January 5, 2014, for a three-month training program. Permit applications for the 11 team members were submitted on December 18 by the WHO office in Gaza, but all applications were rejected. The team was forced to change their route to exit via Rafah terminal, which has allowed limited passage in recent months, and eventually succeeded in crossing.
The Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs registered 1,053 patients and 1,022 companions travelling through Erez checkpoint to Israel, oPt or Jordan during December; 61 patients were transferred via back-to-back ambulances. Erez terminal was closed for 7 days during December: 4 Saturdays, plus 3 days due to flood damage of the pedestrian passageway from Gaza to Erez terminal. In view of the severity of the winter storm the Palestinian Coordination office canceled patient appointments during the period and rescheduled them for later. Israeli authorities announced that any urgent cases would be permitted to leave through the commercial crossing at Karm Abu-Salem (Kerem Shalom). One urgent case was transferred by ambulance through the vehicle route at Erez.
The ambulance station at Rafah terminal reported that 154 patients and 142 companions were transferred by ambulance from the Palestinian side to the Egyptian side of the terminal during December (Table 4).