The occupied Palestinian territory reforms its hospital sector to make progress towards universal health coverage – World Health Organization

Posted: October 3, 2021 at 2:22 am

WHO / Noor- Tanya Habjouqa

As COVID-19 spread across the occupied Palestinian territory, the Hugo Chavez Hospital was turned into the COVID-19 treatment and isolation centre for patients from Ramallah District. Dr Bassel Bawatneh, the hospitals Acting Director, found himself both serving as a medical professional and performing social care to help fill the gap in hospital staff to carry out all the necessary duties.

In March 2021, Dr Bawatneh found his retired Arabic language teacher, Mohammed Mhanna, critically ill in one of the wards. He visited Mohammeds bedside regularly, providing friendship, comfort and kindness until Mohammed succumbed to the disease. Despite the tragic circumstances, Dr Bawatneh knew that Mohammed was pleased that one of his former students was looking after him.

More than half my time is given to social support for elderly people. Its hard for them to understand why their children cant visit. If we dont focus on the social aspect of our elderly patients, we might lose them. I cannot lose a patient with respiratory problems just because of lack of social support, so we try to control all other aspects in order to give them the medical care they need, said Dr Bawatneh.

WHO, through the Universal Health Coverage Partnership (UHC Partnership), is working closely with the Ministry of Health to support the development of the hospital sector. This is part of overall efforts to strengthen the health system, enhance linkages to primary health care (PHC), and make progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Hospitals are crucial for achieving UHC

Hospitals, combined with effective PHC, are essential in achieving UHC. In practice, this means that an effective PHC system, operating within or closer to communities, serves as the first point of contact of patients and their pathway to hospital care. This can be improved through strengthening the referral system, which will send patients from PHC to hospital and vice versa.

A renewed focus on hospital roles, functions and operations through an integrated and people-centred lens is critical. It brings a fresh perspective on the features of hospitals that are needed to meet present and future challenges to health and health systems. The experience of COVID-19 shows the importance of hospital care when needed.

Social care is one of the many important functions that the health system needs to provide. The gaps in this area demonstrate how much the hospital sector in the occupied Palestinian territory struggles to meet all the needs of patients.

Strengthening the hospital sector

Drawing on the WHO regional framework for action in the hospital sector, WHO, through the UHC Partnership, has provided technical support to the Ministry of Health in the occupied Palestinian territory to strengthen its hospital sector development and policy. At least 53 hospitals in the West Bank with around 520,000 annual patient admissions, as well as 34 hospitals in Gaza, will benefit from improved services once the hospital sector policy is implemented. This effort strengthens the capacity of the occupied Palestinian territory to ensure that more people receive the health services they need, even in the face of conflict and pandemic.

The occupied Palestinian territory is among the 115 countries and areas to which the UHC Partnership helps deliver WHO support and technical expertise in advancing UHC with a PHC approach. The Partnership is one of WHOs largest initiatives on international cooperation for UHC and PHC. It is funded by the European Union (EU), the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Irish Aid, the Government of Japan, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Belgium, Canada and Germany.

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The occupied Palestinian territory reforms its hospital sector to make progress towards universal health coverage - World Health Organization

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