The Lancet publishes WHO study on restricted access to health care in oPt, 8 October 2012

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8 October 2012 JerusalemThis week the UK-based medical journal, The Lancet, published an abstract of a study carried out by WHO in the occupied Palestinian territory quantifying the extent of health access restrictions for patients, hospital staff and ambulances in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The WHO Advocacy Unit conducted the research from data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, General Authority for Civilian Affairs, Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the East Jerusalem hospitals. 

About three out of four patients referred for medical treatment outside the Palestinian public health system are to nongovernmental hospitals within the occupied Palestinian territory, primarily East Jerusalem. Most of the others are referred to specialized hospitals in neighbouring countries – Jordan, Egypt and Israel. Israel requires these patients to apply for an Israeli-issued permit in order to travel through checkpoints. Patients travelling from the Gaza Strip may also be required to appear for a security interview at Erez checkpoint and several have been arrested on crossing. 

The findings indicated that in 2011, 19% of patients and patient-companions from the West Bank, and 10% of Gaza Strip patients were denied or delayed permits from the Israeli Civil Administration for access to health treatment. The total number of patients and companions denied or delayed access in 2011 was 33 760. West Bank data from 3 of 15 districts in the first three months of 2012 indicated that the most frequent reason for denials of health permits was for unexplained ‘security’ reasons. Only 5% of PRCS ambulances had direct access through checkpoints in 2011, the rest carried out back-to-back transfers of patients to Jerusalem-licensed ambulances. Two-thirds of staff at East Jerusalem hospitals must apply for access permits to travel to work, with restrictions on how and where they may travel.

The WHO study was one of 32 peer-reviewed abstracts published by The Lancet in a special online series focusing on the health of Palestinians in Palestine and in refugee camps in the surrounding countries. The Abstracts were first presented in March 2012 at The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance third annual conference held in Beirut.

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WHO oPt abstract

The Lancet homepage: 32 peer-reviewed abstracts on health in oPt

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