Doctor: Newborn dies in Gaza after PA fails to approve outside referral

NEWBORN BABIES sleep in a nursery at a Jerusalem hospital in September. (photo credit: REUTERS)
NEWBORN BABIES sleep in a nursery at a Jerusalem hospital in September.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Musab Ar’aeer, a newborn boy who was suffering from heart and abdominal wall defects, died in Gaza City on Monday after the Palestinian Authority failed to act on an urgent request to be referred to an outside hospital, a doctor at Shifa Hospital said.
Ar’aeer, born last Monday, needed life-saving heart surgery in a hospital outside Gaza, Shifa neo-natal care director Alam Abu Hamda said.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources in Gaza to perform the surgery he needed,” Abu Hamda said in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post. “So we submitted an urgent request to the [PA] Health Ministry to transfer him on the same day he was born, but we never received an approval.”
The PA Health Ministry is responsible for coordinating medical referrals to hospitals in Israel, the West Bank and abroad. Urgent referral requests usually take no more than 48 hours to approve. In some cases, they are approved within hours.
Abu Hamda said Ar’aeer died because his heart failed.
“We gave him medication and intravenous fluids, but his heart stopped working,” the doctor stated.
Hamas spokesman Hazim Qassim posted on Twitter that the newborn died “because of the siege imposed on Gaza.” Bassam al-Badri, the Gaza-based PA Health Ministry official responsible for referrals, did not respond to multiple phone calls.
Meanwhile, a PA Civil Affairs Ministry official who is in charge of arranging entry permits to Israel for sick Gazans said he had received no paperwork about Ar’aeer’s case from the PA Health Ministry.
According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI), the PA Health Ministry has been reducing the number of referrals it approves. PHRI international advocacy coordinator Dana Moss said that in May and June, the ministry approved approximately 10 referrals daily. She added that it approved an average of over 2,040 referrals monthly in 2016.
Over the past two months, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been implementing a series of measures to compel Hamas to give up control of the Gaza Strip. He has slashed Gaza-based PA employees’ salaries, reduced the amount of electricity supplied to the area and cut medical budgets. He has defended the policy, saying it is targeted at ending the split between the West Bank and Gaza.
“We seek to unify our land and our people, and any measures we take are in fact aimed at ending this division, which has harmed our national cause,” Abbas told a Japanese newspaper in early June.
In official statements, Hamas has described Abbas’s moves as “arbitrary” and “dangerous.”
Following the death of Ar’aeer, PHRI called on all parties involved to take responsibility for the deteriorating health situation in Gaza.
“Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must come to their senses and take swift action to avoid the next tragedy,” the statement said.