JERUSALEM, Wednesday, August 23, 2023 (WAFA) – Out of 1,851 permit applications for patients from the Gaza Strip to get Israeli permission to leave the besieged sea enclave through Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing for treatment in West Bank, East Jerusalem, or Israeli hospitals, 1,492, or 81%, of the total applications were approved in July, and of the 8,678 West Bank patient applications in July for medical treatment in East Jerusalem or Israeli hospitals, 6,477, or 75%, were approved, 7% lower than the average approval rate in 2022, according to the World Health Organization’s monthly health access report on barriers for patients in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Out of a further 112 permit applications for Gaza patients and companions were submitted through the Palestinian General Authority of Civil Affairs during July for travel by shuttle to Jordan, which requires approval of Israeli and Jordanian authorities for direct transfer from Beit Hanoun/Erez to the King Hussein Bridge to Jordan, without formal entry to Israel or the West Bank, six, or 5%, were approved within the month, none were denied and 106, or 95%, remained pending at the time of monthly reporting.
Of the Gaza Strip applications, more than a quarter (27%) were for children under 18, and a fifth (19%) were for patients over 60 years old. Under half (46%) were for female patients, while 84% were for referrals funded by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
In addition, 47% of applications were for appointments in East Jerusalem hospitals; 36% were for hospitals in the West Bank outside East Jerusalem; and 17% were for Israeli hospitals. The top five specialties accounted for 73% of permit applications: oncology (36%); hematology (11%); cardiology (10%); orthopedics (8%); and pediatrics (8%). The remaining 27% of applications were for 22 other specialties.
According to the report, 10 male and two female patient permit applications, 1% of the total for Gaza patients, were denied in July. Five of these 12 patient applications were for adults aged 18 to 40 years, three for adults aged 41-60 years, and four for patients over 60 years old. Six patients had appointments for oncology; two for internal medicine; and one each for neurology, general surgery, heart surgery and ophthalmology. Nine were destined for hospital appointments in the West Bank outside East Jerusalem and three to East Jerusalem.
A total of 230 male and 117 female patient Gaza permit applications, or 19% of the total, were delayed access to care, receiving no definitive response to their application by the date of their hospital appointment. Of delayed applications, 22% (78 applications) were for children under the age of 18, while 8% (27) were for patients over 60 years old. Most delayed applications (327 or 94%) were classified as ‘under study’ at the time of the patient’s hospital appointment. Five applications were delayed based on the assertion by the Israeli army’s Coordinator of Government Activities that suitable care is available within Gaza, though no evidence was provided to support this claim, stressed WHO.
In July, 80 (Male: 58; Female: 22) patients from the Gaza Strip were requested for interrogation as a prerequisite to their permit applications, the highest monthly number in six years – since July 2017, when 94 patients were requested for interrogation, said the report. The number of patients requested for interrogation has significantly increased since October 2022.
Of those requested for interrogation, 39 patients were aged 18 to 40 years, 32 were aged 41 to 60 years, and nine were over 60 years old. Of these patients, 23 had appointments for cancer care (oncology); 11 for cardiology; 10 for orthopedics; 8 for hematology; 4 each for internal medicine, general surgery, and ophthalmology; 3 each for neurology, neurosurgery and ENT; 2 each for urology and obstetrics/gynecology; and 1 each for pulmonary medicine, nephrology, and maxillo-facial surgery.
The Health Liaison Office submitted 2,378 companion permit applications to Israeli authorities to accompany Gaza patients in July. These applications include parents or other companions applying to travel with children. Patients are eligible to apply to Israeli authorities for one companion to accompany them for health care outside the Gaza Strip. In July, 1,167 companion permit applications (49% of the total) were approved, 56 applications (2%) were denied, and the remaining 1,155 (49%) were delayed, receiving no definitive response by the time of the patient’s hospital appointment.
The Palestinian General Authority of Civil Affairs reported that 2,067 patients and 1,596 companions exited through Beit Hanoun/Erez checkpoint in July to access hospitals outside the Gaza Strip. Therefore, close to a quarter, or 23% (471), of patients crossed Beit Hanoun/Erez checkpoint without a companion. Of the 2,067 patients, 95 were transferred from a Palestinian- to an Israeli registered ambulance (back-to-back) with 95 companions. The bodies of 29 deceased persons were returned to Gaza across Beit Hanoun/Erez in July.
Most Palestinian patients from the West Bank outside of East Jerusalem are required to obtain permits to reach hospitals in East Jerusalem or Israel. Most women older than 50 years of age and men older than 55 years of age are exempted from the requirement, though a proportion of these are also restricted on purported security grounds.
There were 8,678 permit applications by patients from the West Bank outside east Jerusalem in July. Of patient permit applications, 4,477 (52%) were for female patients, 1,921 (22%) were for children under the age of 18 years, and 731 (8%) were for patients over 60 years. Two-thirds (67%) were for appointments at hospitals in east Jerusalem, while a third (33%) were for Israeli hospitals or clinics.
The approval rate for the West Bank has been declining gradually since the beginning of the year and currently remains lower than the approval rate for the Gaza Strip, said the report. There were 1,949 (22%) unsuccessful applications and 252 (3%) applications pending at the time of monthly reporting in July.
The approval rate of patient permits varies by location. In July, governorates with an approval rate of 75% or higher included Abu Dis (87%); Jericho (85%); al-Ram (82%); Tubas and Qalqilya (80%) each; Salfit (76%); and Tulkarm (75%). Governorates with an approval rate lower than the average of 75% included Bethlehem (74%), Jenin (73%), Ramallah (72%), Hebron (68%), and Nablus (65%).
In July, out of 10,324 companion permit applications to Israeli authorities from the West Bank outside east Jerusalem, to access health care in east Jerusalem and Israel, 5,344 (52%) were for female companions, while 88% of applications were for companions aged from 18-59 years.
Of the 10,324 West Bank companion applications, 7,559 (73%) were approved. 2,396 (23%) were unsuccessful and 369 (4%) were pending reply at the time of monthly reporting.