We made sure that access to healthcare and urgent government information was and continues to be available to all.
PROVIDING ADEQUATE HEALTHCARE DURING COVID-19
N (we are only using an initial for privacy reasons), a Palestinian woman from the Galilee, was refused treatment at the dialysis centre covered by her health insurance after she tested positive for COVID-19. Her family desperately searched for solutions, but no medical centre agreed to provide the lifesaving dialysis she needed.
N’s health deteriorated and she was eventually admitted to the hospital for emergency treatment. Her family contacted members of the Shatil-led Arab-Jewish Citizens’ Forum for the Promotion of Health in the Galilee, who began urgently advocating for an immediate solution to what they now know was a problem for at least 25 people in the region.
Forum members contacted senior officials of the Health Ministry and various insurance organisations, as well as the media. Shatil experts facilitated an interview on this issue with N’s son, together with Forum activist Hamad Saran and Professor Masad Barhum, head of the Galilee Medical Center, on a popular national radio program.
This was an all-too rare occasion in which multiple Palestinian speakers were featured in the mainstream, Hebrew-language press on a topic not exclusive to the Palestinian community. On air the journalists, who contacted the Health Ministry for its response, expressed admiration for these civil society efforts in identifying and tackling an intolerable situation.
Following the Northern Health Forum’s advocacy, Israel’s Ministry of Health ordered the Galilee Medical Center to open a 25-patient dialysis unit within 10 days.
This success is the result of Shatil’s professional work in mobilising a network of activists and encouraging initiatives and actions, which in this case led to a lifesaving achievement. All this, while promoting Palestinian voices in the mainstream media on a general issue, emphasizing the importance of the state’s responsibility in providing appropriate proper services to the general public.
– Shira Eytan, Shatil’s director of Social and Economic Justice.
PROVIDING URGENT MEDICAL RELIEF FOR GAZA AND THE WEST BANK
Even before the pandemic, Gaza’s health services were severely inadequate. But COVID-19, which is currently surging in Gaza, has brought the hospitals and clinics to the brink of collapse. NIF grantees in Israel were bracing ourselves for an outbreak in Gaza – asking what will families there be able to do to avoid the spread of the virus and be treated if they contract it, given the lack of resources and infrastructure.
A delegation of ten doctors from NIF grantee Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) was the first such delegation to reach Gaza since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. Israeli doctors delivered medical equipment and medications and performed surgery, examinations and mental health training for Gazan medical professionals. The delegation included surgeons, paediatricians, family doctors, as well as specialists in orthopaedics, cardiology, gastroenterology and mental health. In addition, the PHRI delegation performed complex surgical procedures in southern Gaza and in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Alongside the effort in Gaza, PHRI’s mobile clinic has been providing vital medical treatment to Palestinian villages throughout the West Bank.
During the COVID-19 crisis, with many West Bank villages under strict curfew to prevent the disease from spreading, the clinic, managed by Salah Haji Yehiye, has become an even more vital lifeline for Palestinian villagers. The clinic also serves as a mobile pharmacy dispensing life-saving medications in areas where access to healthcare is severely limited.
PROVIDING ACCESS TO COVID-19 RELATED INFORMATION TO HELP FLATTEN THE CURVE
During a pandemic, all people should be able to find clear information in the language they speak so that they can protect themselves and their families.
Israel’s civil society has been working to ensure that members of every community in Israel –including ultra-Orthodox Jews who are not typically online, asylum seekers and Arab citizens who may not read Hebrew, and others – get access to the information they need to protect themselves and their families and help flatten the curve.
At the outset of this public health crisis, Israel’s Ministry of Health published real-time public health advisories on coronavirus only in Hebrew, with Arabic updates available only after significant delays. This put the health and wellbeing of Arab citizens – and everyone in Israel – at risk. Adalah: The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel called on the Health Ministry to ensure that these advisories are translated so that all Israeli citizens, including Arabic-speaking citizens and older Ethiopian-Israeli citizens, can read them.