AMMAN: It was clear that Naimeh, a Palestinian woman, needed emergency surgery when she went to a local branch of St John’s Eye Hospital. She would have lost her sight had she not gone. But not all cases are like hers.
The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown has limited people’s access to the hospital, with many thousands losing out.
David Dahdal, who is director of development at St John’s, said that 18,000 patients have been unable to go to the hospital.
“1,200 operations that would normally have been conducted by the medical institution’s specialized surgeons had to be canceled,” he told Arab News. “As a result of this sudden loss of patients and operations our losses have reached $1.5 million in the first half of this year.”
He warned that by the end of the year, if the lockdown continued, the hospital’s losses could reach $3.9 million. “We are hoping to raise $2 to $3 million to help take care of the backlog of debt and cover the new demand that we expect will happen once the road is open and regular patients can come.”
St. John’s is registered as a not-for-profit charity and 55 percent of its operational budget comes from external funds. The remaining amount is covered by UNRWA and the Palestinian Ministry of Health, which normally refers patients with eyesight needs to the hospital.
Dahdal said that the ministry had given priority to coronavirus cases and emergencies. Eye operations are considered non-essential and the ministry has stopped funding patient cases connected to eye diseases.
St. John’s has launched a global appeal for support to keep its doors open as it expects a big inflow of patients once the lockdown eases.
Dahdal said that the World Health Organization had agreed to support the appeal and that it would be publicly calling on donors to support it too.
Ahmad Budeiri, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance to Deal with the Coronavirus, said that the hospital was important and needed support.
“We are aware that the lockdown and the focus on coronavirus have caused specialized hospitals like St. John’s to lose their regular patients,” he told Arab News. “We encourage those who can to support this important charitable hospital. The pressures on hospitals that treat coronavirus patients are huge, but we do need the whole medical system not to fail. We do believe the eye hospital should be supported because the coronavirus pandemic taught a big lesson that our medical system needs a very big push and support. One virus exposed all the failures of the years.”
Ahmad Rwaidy is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s representative in Palestine. He said that the OIC’s Solidarity Fund had voted in January to support St. John’s.
“This is a specialized hospital that provides badly needed medical support to Palestinians throughout Palestine and we are pleased to be able to help this hospital,” Rwaidy told Arab News. Around $100,000 would be delivered in June, he added as he called on OIC member states to help St John’s and make direct contributions.
King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan were among the earliest patrons of St John’s. The Queen Noor Foundation has been active in circulating the appeal to potential Arab donors and has already received positive results.
Last month a medical official, Dr. Walid Nammour, told Arab News that Jerusalem’s hospitals would need at least $7 million in order to meet the expected emergency caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Nammour, who is the secretary of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, said that Palestinian hospitals had been experiencing financial difficulties even before the COVID-19 global health emergency.