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Treatment of hundreds of Palestinian patients halted as Palestinian-Israeli coordination collapses

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We are on the brink of medical chaos. Right now, hundreds are affected. Thousands will be affected soon.

In recent days, we have seen a spike in requests for help from Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who need medical treatment that is not available locally. These patients, some in critical condition and who require life-saving treatment, have told us that the Palestinian agencies in charge of liaising with the Israeli authorities have stopped transferring exit permit applications that were submitted for medical reasons.

Patients further reported that the Palestinian Ministry of Health refuses to refer them to Israeli hospitals or cover the cost of treatment in Israel. Consequently, Israeli hospitals have refused to admit back organ transplant patients who have returned to their homes for post-surgery rehabilitation.

Among the people affected are two leukemia patients from Nablus aged 25 and 46, whose routine treatment at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem was halted over lack of coverage by the Palestinian Authority; a 37-year-old lung transplant patient who stopped receiving care at Beilinson Hospital as the Palestinian Ministry of Health refused to cover the 900 shekel per-visit cost; an eight-month-old baby with a heart condition from the Gaza Strip who has been unable to travel for treatment at Sheba Hospital because the Palestinian Civilian Affairs Committee refuses to forward an exit permit application for him and a 24-year-old woman from the Gaza Strip who requires ongoing treatment for orthopedic issues and whose application for a permit was denied by the Palestinian coordination.

Inquiries we made with health care officials in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have revealed that coordination for Palestinian patients was halted on orders issued by the office of Palestinian President Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Prime Minister just days after the president announced all civil and security coordination with Israel would be halted in response to its annexation plans.

Through these inquiries, we have also learned that following the crisis, an alternative coordination mechanism for medical travel began operating in Gaza. Since May 31, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has taken over coordination for travel in humanitarian and medical cases. The center submits applications directly to the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) at Erez Crossing. This is unprecedented. It is the first time since the Oslo Accords that coordination for travel by Gaza Strip residents is done directly between Israel and an independent Palestinian actor unaffiliated with the Palestinian Authority. However, capacity is greatly reduced, and only an average of five applications are made this way each day.

Given the fact that Israel controls the area, the crossings and the living conditions of the Palestinian population, and since Israel instituted the failed permit system, it shoulders the responsibility to find a quick solution to enable patients to travel freely to receive medical treatment. Most patients in the Gaza Strip travel for treatment in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and their health must not be affected. We are on the brink of medical chaos. Right now, hundreds are affected. Thousands will be affected soon. Israeli hospitals must put medical ethics above all else and treat patients who come to them even without a coverage guarantee from the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, must find a solution for patients who find themselves helpless from the lack of coordination with Israel.