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Gaza’s newborns fight for their lives as PA suspends referrals

July 3, 2017 at 10:51 am

Newborn babies at the intensive care unit are seen at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on 27 June, 2017 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Mohamed Al-Hadidi is fighting a battle to keep his only child, Rashid, alive at Al-Nusser hospital. Health officials were unable to diagnose Rashid because at the time the Palestinian Authority (PA) stopped issuing referrals for patients to be treated outside Gaza.

The family’s suffering began a month after their son was born. He showed abnormal symptoms and so his parents started taking him to Al-Nusser hospital nursery.

Since then Rashid’s health – and that of two other children at the hospital – has gotten worse as his particular illness cannot be diagnosed or treated in Gaza and the PA refuses to issue them referrals for treatment at West Bank hospitals.

Tension and frustration

Tension and frustration surround the family in fear of losing their only child. His health is going from bad to worse since he cannot receive the necessary treatment.

“Why can’t my son travel for treatment? My son has been in hospital for 21 days and doctors cannot diagnose or treat him,” said his father, 25-year-old Mohammed Al-Hadidi. “Are officials waiting for him to die?”

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Al-Hadidi said in an interview with the Palestinian press agency Safa that he contacted the treatment abroad department in Ramallah and they assured him that his child’s name was on the treatment referral list but that issuing referrals to Gaza patients has stopped.

During the past two days three children have died in the nursery ward at Al-Shifa Hospital. The number of those who died as a result of the suspension of treatment referrals has reached 11 cases since the beginning of the year, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Dangerous situation

Paediatric doctor at Al-Nusser Hospital Reda Abu Assi said: “The delay in issuing medical referrals to patients in Gaza, especially children, seriously affects their health status and puts their lives at risk.”

Abu Assi added in her interview with Safa newspaper that Al-Nusser Hospital is having great difficulty treating patients. It takes 15 days to refer a child yet given their medical conditions a few days can make a difference.

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Dozens of sick children come daily to Al-Nusser hospital in Gaza, but the most serious cases are the children with heart disease. They need urgent referrals for surgery in the West Bank to save their lives.

At Al-Nusser Hospital there are currently three children who are in serious need of treatment abroad referrals, however they have been waiting for 20-30 days, which is affecting their lives.

As for the condition of Rashid, Abu Assi said that he is still waiting for the referral to be issued 20 days after the hospital ordered it. The treatment abroad department in Ramallah has not responded.

Treatment of Rashid is not available in Gaza, she added, despite the fact that he is in a critical condition and needs to be transferred to Jerusalem for treatment due to increased levels of ammonia in his blood, which could kill him.


Also in the hospital is a child from the Al-Kassas family, who also needs an urgent referral for treatment due to the deterioration of his health due to a defect in his liver.

According to the Ministry of Health patients must travel for treatment a few days after ordering their treatment referrals but since the blockade was imposed on the Strip leaving for treatment can take up to 15 days.

Doctor Abu Assi says “we sympathise with the children and their families, we order the referrals but we don’t know why the referrals do not get issued quickly to save the lives of the children. Why do children have to suffer?”

She adds “sick children cannot afford delay, and their conditions will worsen if they do not receive treatment as soon as possible. Unfortunately we are jeopardising the lives of children because of poor coordination.”

The Ministry of Health in Gaza warned that the number of children dying from untreated medical conditions since the PA suspended treatment referrals is rising.

Translated from Safa, 28 June 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.