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OPT - Report: Collapse of the Palestinian health system

The collapse of the Palestinian health system due to the freeze of the tax revenue by Israel, and the stoppage of international aid is the focus of a new position paper published by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. Some of the cancer patients in the Gaza Strip have not received chemotherapy for over a month. Ending the funding to the health system will lead to the death of thousands of people in the short term and to extensive morbidity in the long term.
At least four patients have died as a direct result of this lack of funding.

Financial assistance given to the Palestinian Authority amounts to approximately $1-billion yearly, and a large portion of budget for the Ministry of Health is provided by overseas donors - so that the acute humanitarian needs of the population can be met. In the short term, Israel is responsible for the outcome of the collapse of Palestinian civil society in general and the health system in particular.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health:

- Provides 64.5 percent of the general health needs of the Palestinian population.

- It employs approximately 11,000 individuals, comprising 57% of the workforce in the Palestinian health system. None of these individuals have received their salary for three consecutive months.

- Some $7.6 million are spent on expenses other than salaries. Approximately 83 percent of this amount is expended on the acquisition of medicine, vaccinations, urgent treatment, supplies, and the operation of laboratories.

- Finances the referrals for patients in need of care not available in the occupied territories: During 2005, in the West Bank, 19,737 patients were refered for treatment out side of the Palestinian government health system to hospitals in Israel, Jordan and Egypt. The cost of these referrals was $ 39 million. In the event of a total collapse of the Palestinian health ministry, these patients will not receive treatment, because there will be no infrastructure for facilitating the referrals and coordinating payments.

Who will pay for radiation treatments for these patients if the Authority collapses?

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is aware that Shifa Hospital, the central hospital in Gaza, has not received (for at least a month) the essential medicines it needs for basic care, such as Lasix (a diuretic medicine that reduces fluid pressure on the lungs) and Erythromycin (a widely used antibiotic).

In Shifa Hospital four patients already have died as a result of the reduction in the number of their dialysis treatments from three per week to only two.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel calls upon Israel:

1. To cease the policy of closure and curfew that is dismantling the different Palestinian civil services - particularly the health service.

2. To forward tax revenue due to the Palestinian Authority promptly and without delay.

3. To facilitate the work of international bodies and encourage them to continue to support and finance Palestinian civil infrastructures and systems.

4.To provide free medical services for the residents of the Occupied Territories in fields that are not available in the Palestinian system. If the system collapses, Israel must meet all the civil needs.

For more information and to receive the report, please contact Maskit Bendel, author of the report,+972-54-7700477 or Shabtai Gold, Public Outreach,+972-54-486-0630