In late March 2019, the Palestinian Ministry of Health decided to stop financing medical treatments for Palestinian patients in Israeli hospitals. According to the new policy, when no medical solution is available within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, patients will be referred to hospitals in Jordan and Egypt.
Several weeks after the announcement, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) warn that the new policy harms patients and violates their right to access healthcare services. Often, it leaves patients who cannot be treated in the health systems in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank without any medical recourse, thus placing their lives at risk.
Ever since the new policy had entered into effect, PHRI were contacted by twelve such patients. At the moment, there is much confusion and lack of clarity around the implementation of this policy. In some cases, after intensive pressure by the patients and their families, the Palestinian Ministry of Health backs down and approves the financing, sometimes only partially. Given the lack of consistence, we fear that those able to exert pressure or those with connections in high places will be the ones who obtain the necessary funding. Further confusion remains with regard to the alternative options of referring patients to Jordan and Egypt.
PHRI believe that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel need to resolve their differences in a way that will not turn patients into pawns in their conflict and place them at mortal risk.
The PA: The Palestinian Ministry of Health has both the right and the duty to prioritize the funding of healthcare as it invests in developing the Palestinian health system. However, abrupt denial of access to essential treatments violates their right to health and severely compromises their chances to recover. Therefore, those patients who need treatments that at present may only be received in Israel must keep being referred there.
Israel: The deduction of the PA’s tax monies by Israel in response to its policies (in this case, financial support for prisoner families) represents an unacceptable use of its power, demonstrating once again its ability and willingness to exert it as a punitive measure as part of its occupation policy. Israel must allow patients who cannot receive appropriate treatment in PA territories to be treated in Israeli hospitals, given its decisive impact on Palestinians’ daily lives, economy and health given the realities of the ongoing occupation. It is also Israel’s humanitarian duty.
Regards, Mor Efrat, PHRI