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Transfer of Palestinian patients to Israel for medical treatment will soon come to an end in order to keep funding inside the Palestinian Authority, according to the Palestinian Authority Minister of Health.
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Medicine comes before politics
Minister Fathi Abu-Moghli said that funds previously used to cover medical treatment for Palestinians abroad would now be channeled into developing the Palestinian Authority health sector.
"The issue of referrals is a culture imposed on us by the occupation
after 1967, when it tied the Palestinian medical system to the Israeli
medical system. Even the Palestinian Authority, when it was established,
failed to change this culture. Officials even strengthened it by
intervening in transferring patients to Israeli hospitals," Abu-Moghli
said in an interview with the Ma'an radio network over the weekend.
Dr. Omar Al-Nasser, head of the public relations and media department at
the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said referral of Palestinian patients
abroad would only totally cease when the Palestinian health system could
provide a complete alternative to Israeli hospitals.
"The better the state of health care in the Palestinian Authority, the
less referrals we will do," Al-Nasser told The Media Line. "It will be
difficult to forgo referrals 100%, but we will do our best."
"This is not a political matter, but rather the development and provision of services in Palestine" he added.
Dr. Al-Nasser said that until recently, the Palestinian Authority would
send children with hearing problems to Israel to receive cochlear
implant. Each surgery would cost $33,000.
Now, this surgery can be done cheaper in the West Bank. According to
Al-Nasser, the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Health has trained
medical staff at the Rafidia hospital in Nablus to perform cochlear
implants at a cost of only $5,000.
"Ten days ago we transplanted a kidney for the first time in a
governmental hospital," Al-Nasser added with pride, referring to the new
Palestine Medical Complex, inaugurated last week in Ramallah.
On the Israeli side, a more skeptical tone was expressed concerning the quality of Palestinian health care.
"There is gradual improvement in medical services in the Palestinian
Authority," a spokesman for the Israeli Civil Administration, the body
responsible for coordinating the entry of Palestinian patients into
Israel, told The Media Line. The spokesman doubted, however, whether the
level of Palestinian Authority health care would ever reach that of Israel's.
"The [Israeli] army has no interest in receiving patients," the
spokesman said. "This decision would mean fewer security risks, less
responsibility, less complaints by [Palestinian] women giving birth at
He added that Israel encourages Palestinian self-reliance by training
medical staff in Israeli hospitals, stressing that many Palestinian
patients are currently referred to private Arab hospitals in East
Palestinian Health Minister Abu-Moghli reported that the number of
Palestinian patients treated abroad decreased by 50% between 2008 and
The sum spent on referrals was reduced from about $100 million to $50 million every year.
"In a short time we shall say there are no more referrals of any
patients abroad, because all the services will exist [in the Palestinian
Authority], and on a high level," Abu-Moghli said.