|PCHR Organizes Workshop on ‘Patients in the Gaza Strip and Medical Treatment Abroad: Challenges and Solutions’|
On Wednesday, 17 October 2012, the Economic and Social Rights Unit of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop on ‘Patients in the Gaza Strip and Medical Treatment Abroad: Challenges and Solutions’, which took place in al-Quds International Hotel in Gaza City. The workshop was attended by a number of specialized persons representing the Ministry of Health, Treatment Abroad Department, the World Health Organization (WHO), non-governmental organizations, a number of health institutions in the Gaza Strip, and representatives from civil society organizations. The Director of the Economic and Social Rights Unit, Mr Khalil Shaheen, facilitated the workshop.
Dr Reyad al-Za’noun, Chairman of PCHR’s Board of Directors and former Minister of Health, welcomed the participants and thanked those who had submitted working papers to the workshop. Al-Za’noun noted that this workshop was organized as part of ongoing cooperation and coordination between governmental and non-governmental organizations to enhance human rights in general and the right of patients to receive medical treatment in particular. He added that the workshop aimed to assess the health status of these patients, who have no possibility to be treated in the Gaza Strip's hospitals, to exchange ideas about their right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health, and to come up with recommendations to guarantee the protection of and respect for this right, which is considered one of the key elements in the human dignity.
In his presentation titled ‘The right of patients to receive treatment and medical care: Medical treatment abroad as a model’, Dr Fadel al-Mzaini, a researcher for the Economic and Social Rights Unit, addressed the conditions of patients who are denied their right to treatment outside the Gaza Strip despite the lack of a suitable alternative within the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). He pointed out that the suffering of this sector of Palestinian society is a direct and explicit violation of the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health, which is stipulated in several international declarations and covenants, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also a direct violation of the Palestinian Basic Law (amended in 2003) and the Public Health Act 2004.
Dr Fathi al-Hajj, Director of the Treatment Abroad Department, made a presentation on ‘The role of the governmental sector in the provision of treatment abroad for patients from Gaza’, which addressed the tasks entrusted to the Ministry of Health and its responsibilities to patients. He pointed out this is costly for the Palestinian Authority (PA), but that the PA is obliged to guarantee treatment abroad for patients from Gaza who require it. Dr al-Hajj noted that, in the previous month, the Ministry of Health had transferred only 1,100 medical cases for treatment abroad, including 202 cancer patients. He also discussed a variety of reasons which consistently lead to worsening conditions for patients who need treatment abroad, most notably: the high cost of treatment in light of the PA’s financial crisis; the five years of ongoing internal political division in the oPt; and the questionable professional ethics among some people that raises suspicions about certain patients and their entitlement to obtain treatment abroad. He outlined how the Ministry of Health is rationing referrals for treatment abroad rather than reducing them. Finally, Dr al-Hajj called for the development of the medical sector within the Gaza Strip, building the capacity of medical staff and reducing the number of patients requiring transfer abroad, which will also reduce expenses for the PA.
The Director of the Specialist Care Unit in the Ministry of Health, Dr Maher Shamya, gave a presentation titled ‘Gaza Patients and Treatment Abroad: Review.’ He explained that 10 diseases, mainly of the heart and eye, make up 70% of transferred cases. He outlined how developing the relevant units in hospitals within Gaza would significantly reduce the number of transferred cases. Dr Shamya also described the obstacles which affect the process of transferring patients abroad; the main impediments are the absence of a computerized system across all hospitals in the Gaza Strip to monitor such cases, the absence of accurate statistics on the number of treated cases, and the lack of trust between patients and doctors. Dr Shamya called on the Ministry of Health to make use of the health services provided by non-governmental health organizations, to assign specialist doctors to perform surgery in Gaza hospitals, and to provide training for medical staff.
In his presentation titled ‘The role of WHO in the development of health services in the Gaza Strip: Medical treatment abroad as a model,’ Dr Mahmoud Daher, Director of WHO in the Gaza Strip, outlined how WHO assists the Ministry of Health to develop its health services so that they meet international human rights standards. The organization monitors and reports on patients' conditions and the quality and quantities of medicine in the Gaza Strip, and makes frequent appeals in response to crises as they arise. Dr Daher called for all parties involved in providing health services, whether governmental, non-governmental, or private, to cooperate to improve the system of obtaining medical treatment abroad for patients in need.
Dr 'Aed Yaghi, Director of the Medical Relief Society in the Gaza Strip, made a presentation on ‘The experience of civil society organizations in the development of health services in the Gaza Strip: Medical treatment abroad as a model,’ in which he stressed that the right to health is a fundamental human right, and that both governments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip hold responsibility towards patients in Gaza. Dr Yaghi pointed out that the money spent on treating Palestinian patients abroad comes from part of the Palestinian Authority's budget which is funded by donor countries and Palestinians taxpayers, therefore it is the patients’ right to receive this treatment. He added that the budget of the Ministry of Health is seriously imbalanced, for example, in comparison with the security budget.
Following the presentations, the audience participated in an open discussion when they asked a number of questions. The participants in the workshop were also given a personal account of the experience of a cancer patient.
The participants in the workshop made several recommendations, notably:
- Calling upon the Ministry of Health to assess the impacts of the decision to reduce the transfer of patients, including its impact on the lives of patients in Gaza who suffer from serious illnesses, and to suspend this decision until appropriate alternatives are put in place that provide similar health care to patients in Gaza;
- Calling upon the Ministry of Health to proceed immediately to the development of the health sector, to provide training and build the capacity of medical staff in the Gaza Strip, to provide the necessary medicines and medical supplies, and to assign specialist doctors to perform surgery, the lack of which accounts for the bulk of transfers for treatment abroad, in an effort to reduce the number of patients in need of treatment abroad, as well as to minimize expense for the PA;
- Calling upon the Ministry of Health to make use of the health services provided by non-governmental health organizations, in order to reduce governmental expenses and support the national economy;
- Calling upon the Ministry of Health to protect health services from political disputes, and mobilize all efforts to promote the health sector and provide treatment for patients suffering from serious illnesses;
- Calling upon all parties involved in providing health services, whether governmental, non-governmental, or private, to cooperate to improve the system of obtaining medical treatment abroad for patients in need; and
- Calling upon the international community to pressure the Israeli Occupation Forces to lift the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, and to allow patients access to hospitals abroad.
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|Last Updated on Monday, 22 October 2012 10:15|