Board members also hold talks with Palestinian officials to seek greater financial stability
(LWI) - Members of the international advisory board of the Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in East Jerusalem have affirmed their strong confidence in the management of the facility under the leadership of its Chief Executive Officer Dr Fadi Atrash.
Speaking on behalf of board members, the two co-chairs, Ms Gunvor Kronman of Finland and Dr Ola Awad of Palestine, said the board “applauds the overall achievements of the Augusta Victoria Hospital and its highly dedicated and competent staff”. They noted the management’s tireless efforts to uphold “what is effectively a world class institution”, providing life-saving, holistic cancer care and kidney treatments to the Palestinian population in the midst of a challenging financial situation.
Launched in 2020, the board has been mandated by The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to provide overall strategic and professional support to the hospital and its management. In addition to representatives from Palestine and staff of LWF and AVH, members from other countries, including Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United States, convened from 21 to 22 June at the Mount of Olives campus.
A world-class institution operating at reduced capacity
The financial situation of AVH and other East Jerusalem hospitals has been aggravated by a delay in the 2021 annual financial support from the European Union (EU) for the Palestinian Authority (PA). For AVH, this has led to a halt in the intake of all new patients since September 2021.
CEO Dr Atrash confirmed that at least 500 people referred to AVH with cancer diagnoses have been unable to access care and treatments, and that the hospital continues to operate at reduced capacity due to lack of cash to pay for medication and other supplies. While the PA will be able to use the EU funding to settle parts of their bills, the size of the outstanding receivables continues to be very high.
The AVH board members discussed the current socio-economic, demographic and political context in which the hospital operates, and the state of the Palestinian health care system. They also reviewed the hospital operations, challenges and future plans, and shared advice on advocacy, finance and quality management.
Monthly payments crucial for upholding services and advocacy
“Members of the board have already been actively engaged in lobbying and advocacy to ensure timely payments from the EU and US to the Palestinian Authority,” said Kronman in a separate board meeting with the PA representatives. During the meeting, conducted in a spirit of constructive dialogue, the parties agreed to establish an ad hoc committee consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Health, Finance, Jerusalem Affairs, as well as the AVH CEO and a member of the Advisory Board. The committee will meet regularly and discuss the possibility of increasing monthly payments to the hospital, as well as exploring how the PA can repay the debts gradually.
AVH advisory board members outside the LWF-run health facility on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. Photo: LWF/E. Shaheen
After the 2019 cash flow crisis, an agreement was signed between AVH and the PA, guaranteeing monthly payments as well as larger, quarterly payments to reduce the total debt to the hospital. While recognizing the PA’s overall financial difficulty, the Advisory Board members underlined that monthly payments are a visible sign of the PA’s commitment to the AVH and its life-saving health services for Palestinians and therefore crucial to the success of their continued international lobbying and advocacy on behalf of both the PA and the LWF-run AVH.
Augusta Victoria Hospital is a center of medical excellence in East Jerusalem, serving all 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Its specialized services include comprehensive cancer and diabetes care, kidney care and dialysis, skilled nursing and long-term care, as well as ear, nose and throat and other specialty surgeries. Augusta Victoria Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission International for its outstanding quality. Patients are referred to the AVH by the Palestinian Authority.