The financial crisis reaches the health sector in the West Bank and Gaza
The financial crisis experienced by the Palestinian Authority since the beginning of last year has affected vital sectors in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the health sector.
Days after the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip announced that 43 percent of the list of essential medicines had run out, and 25 percent of the medical supplies in its stores, warning of the health repercussions for patients, Palestinian officials and medical officials acknowledged that there is also a problem in West Bank hospitals.
The Hebrew newspaper “Haaretz” published a report in which it said that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are facing a severe and dangerous shortage in the availability of medicines for Palestinian patients, especially those with chronic and serious diseases who find it difficult to obtain their expensive medicines.
One of the doctors working in the dialysis center at the government hospital in Tubas, in the northern West Bank, said that this crisis has been clearly felt for several weeks. He added, “Patients come from several regions to obtain medicines intended for dialysis patients, and we have no way to help them.” In other areas, citizens lack regular medicines to treat diabetes or pressure.
A senior official in the Palestinian Authority acknowledged the problem of medicine shortages, and told Haaretz that the medicine shortages in the West Bank are due to three main reasons: the first is the financial crisis that makes the Authority unable to pay regularly to suppliers, and the strike of pharmacists in medical centers and hospitals due to non-receipt of their salaries. Completely, then the increasing pressure on the Ministry of Health after UNRWA closed in recent months the medical centers it runs in refugee camps due to a strike by its workers.
According to the official, the PA is unable to fully finance the Ministry of Health’s budget because Israel deducts from its tax funds.
Israel withholds huge sums from the Authority’s tax revenues, as a form of punishment due to the allocations paid by the Authority to the prisoners and the families of the perpetrators of the attacks. For the second year in a row, the authority paid incomplete salaries to its employees. What turned large unions against it, and affected other important sectors, such as the education sector.
Clearance funds are taxes levied by the Israeli Ministry of Finance on commodities imported monthly into the Palestinian territories, and transferred to the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, amounting to about $200 million per month, more or less, depending on the commercial activity.
And with the continuing medical crisis due to the closure of UNRWA medical centers and the lack of medicines in West Bank hospitals, there is increasing pressure on clinics run by Physicians for Human Rights in the West Bank, which are mobile clinics.
The organization said that there has been a significant jump in the number of Palestinian patients who have arrived in recent weeks to mobile clinics in the West Bank, and a sharp increase in the demand for medicines.
According to the organization’s data, last Saturday, 251 Palestinians out of 2,500 living in Madama village in Nablus arrived at the mobile clinic to obtain medicines and receive treatment. Twice the number of patients who used to come from that area in previous periods.
The association said, “Due to the acute shortage of medicines, recent weeks have witnessed an increase in the requests it receives from Palestinian medical teams and mayors of cities and villages in the West Bank to distribute medicines and medical equipment, and these include medicines for patients with dialysis, diabetes, blood pressure, and others.”
As for the Gaza Strip, warnings were issued by the Ministry of Health there about the consequences of a shortage of medicines for kidney patients.
And the director of the hospital pharmacy department in the ministry, Alaa Helles, confirmed, at the beginning of this week, that 43 percent of the list of essential medicines has zero balance, and 25 percent of medical supplies have a balance of zero as well, warning that the balances of medical supplies necessary to continue providing dialysis services are running out. In 6 centers in the governorates of the Gaza Strip.
Helles expressed fears that about 1,200 patients with kidney failure would be exposed to serious health complications, due to the risk of depriving them of receiving the necessary dialysis sessions.
Hemodialysis centers in the Strip conduct about 14,000 dialysis sessions every month, and he expressed fears that these centers would stop working due to the state of incapacitation.
He said that the pediatric dialysis department in Al-Rantissi Hospital (the only one in Gaza) is in urgent need of providing medical tubes and consumables for the sick children, who number about 35 children.