THE Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, has made an urgent appeal for donations to rebuild the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, in Gaza, which collapsed last month owing to “environmental stress”.
The steel beams and surrounding walls of the Outpatient Clinic of the 120-year-old hospital caved into the basement below on 6 December. No one was harmed, because the rooms were unoccupied at the time.
“If the facility had been occupied during that time, there might have been fatalities,” a statement from the diocese said. “Only by the grace of God was no one injured during this serious incident.”
The church-run hospital has a capacity of 80 beds, of which 50 are used. It offers free healthcare to the poor and vulnerable in the region, including refugees. About 3500 outpatients and 400 inpatients are seen by medics each month.
Initial assessments by engineers place the cost of immediate repairs at about £119,000. “Deficiencies of the bar joists” in the clinic, and “frequent renovations”, were given as the cause of collapse.
The statement continued: “Due to the sudden and catastrophic nature of this failure, Ahli Hospital patients, staff, and doctors had to be rushed out of the area and temporarily relocated to a safer and more secure place within the hospital’s vicinity.
“Other Outpatient Clinic visitors were redirected to the Physiotherapy Department. Patients have continued to receive treatment from health-care professionals, though at a slower pace under these crowded and temporary conditions.”
The director of programmes and partnerships for the charity Embrace the Middle East, Jamie Eyre, said this week that the collapse represented a “much bigger” issue than relocating patients.
“We have to recognise that this is a symptom of a much bigger problem: the lack of investment in ageing medical infrastructure,” he said. “Medical services are already under extreme pressure in Gaza, and institutions, quite understandably, prioritise spending their limited resources on patient care rather than building maintenance. The recent US aid cuts will only make this problem worse.
“Embrace has already been asked to step in and find additional funds to keep medical services functioning, and we are deeply worried about the year ahead.”
The United Nations has called for more than £275 million in funds to slow the “serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation” in Gaza and the West Bank for 1.4 million people.
The UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the region, Jamie McGoldrick, said: “Our 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for the occupied Palestinian territory prioritises assistance for people assessed as being most in need of protection, food, healthcare, shelter, water, and sanitation.”
Donations to the hospital can be made directly to the diocese (j-diocese.org), through its partner organisations, or at mydonate.bt.com/events/hospitalcollapse/479679