Israel: Access to health care is non-negotiable

A series of incidents over the past few days are impacting patient care and well-being, and hindering the ability of hospital medical staff to provide much-needed services.

Makassed Hospital, which operates the largest Emergency Department in East Jerusalem, has witnessed repeated entry by the Israeli Security Services into its facility over the past days.

« Tensions really escalated Wednesday, when around 40 armed police entered Makassed’s hospital and disrupted medical services for over an hour. A number of our staff were unable to return to care for their patients, some of whom are in critical condition, » said Dr Rafiq Husseini, Makassed’s hospital CEO. « This is the first time ever this hospital has faced such a situation, » Dr Husseini continued. « It is becoming extremely difficult to run a hospital in such conditions. »

The latest incident occurred yesterday. A stand-off between the hospital staff and security forces seeking to re-enter the hospital culminated with use of teargas and rubber bullets, with a patient and staff member injured.

« I was there with an ICRC team, » said Christian Cardon, the ICRC’s Head of Mission in Jerusalem. « I immediately contacted the Israeli Security Forces, to contain and avert any further escalation. »

Legitimate security measures during law enforcement operations must be adapted to ensure adequate access to medical care, and not disrupt medical services or have the effect of intimidating or threatening staff or patients.

« We fully recognise the challenges faced by authorities given the current situation, but we call on them to ensure that health care providers such as the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), as well as patients, can reach hospitals without unnecessary delays. »

Health-care personnel and facilities must be respected and protected at all times, and staff must be able to operate in a safe environment.

Hospitals in East Jerusalem have received more than 370 injured persons since 1st October. The ICRC is working closely with hospitals throughout East Jerusalem during this crisis, and has been providing drugs and other medical supplies to Makassed Hospital, and to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the West Bank. It is also supporting the PRCS and the MDA in their response.

Source : CICR

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