Palestinians gathered in front of the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital in the southern occupied West Bank on Saturday, calling for Palestinian Health Minister Jawad Awwad to step down over allegations of rampant medical negligence at the hospital and lack of accountability in the medical community at large.
Lawyer Farid al-Atrash told Ma'an that the sit-in was held not only in protest of medical negligence and errors at the hospital — that have had fatal consequences in a number of instances — but also against corruption in the medical community. "We are here to raise our voices to put an end to it," he said.
One protester, Jabra Shomali, took a more measured position, saying that the sit-in was organized "to protect the hospital" from itself, and not to attack it.
George Shatara said that his 11-year-old son Fadi died earlier this week in the hospital, which he said believed came as a result of medical negligence that could have been avoided.
Healthcare is a red line that should not be crossed
The grieving father demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas intervene and follow-up with the health minister and the healthcare conditions in Bethlehem.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that they were undertaking measures to improve the quality of work and services provided at the Beit Jala hospital, including hiring new staff and a rehabilitation plan of several sections of the hospital.
However, back in October 2016, the ministry already ordered a series of personnel changes at the hospital, following the death of two hospital patients and accusations of malpractice at the time.
After 44-year-old Faida al-Atrash died in the hospital of kidney failure while undergoing a dialysis treatment, her family demanded an investigation into what they argued was a case of medical negligence, and accused the hospital's director Ziyad Shaqir of lying about the circumstances of her death.
A Ministry of Health commission later determined that her death was not the result of medical negligence, but of natural causes.
Among the personal changes implemented by the ministry in October was the replacement of Shaqir as Beit Jala hospital's director, when he was immediately appointed as head of Health Affairs at the Ministry of Health Directorate in Bethlehem.