Countdown to historic birth at the Holy Family Hospital, Bethlehem
As staff await delivery of the 50,000th baby, the Mobile Outreach Team brings hope to expectant mothers in desperate need of prenatal care and education
Excitement is building for an historic birth at Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem (HFH), located only 500 yards from the traditional birthplace of Jesus. After 20 years in operation under the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Holy Family Hospital will welcome into the world its 50,000th baby – as soon as this month!
Up until 4 October, the total stands at 49,803 babies delivered since 1990, the year the Order of Malta – with operational responsibilities under the French Association – reopened the facility as a maternity hospital. It refuses no-one on the basis of race, religion nor ability to pay.
“Because of the shortage of well-trained nurses and doctors in Palestine, our neonatal team is overloaded with work,” Dr. Jacques Keutgen, General Manager of the HFH, reports. “All the difficult cases, not just from the Bethlehem district, but also from Hebron and sometimes Ramallah, are being sent to the Holy Family Hospital. During June and July 2010 we had an occupancy rate of 97%. The significance for us is a strong commitment, not only medically, but financially too.”
Mobile Outreach Team treat desert communities
For the past five years, hospital staff members also have been bringing hope, on weekly visits to tragically poor families living in the desert near Bethlehem. The Holy Family Hospital mobile outreach van regularly visits three locations in the Judean desert. Word has spread through the remote communities, and scores of women and children venture down from the hills to be examined by the team.
“Families exist in dreadful poverty and isolation in the Judean desert south of Bethlehem,” says Colleen Marotta, executive director of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation in Washington. “They live in canvas tents or metal shacks with no running water, no electricity, no sanitation, in extended family groups of 20-40 … outcasts of a cast-out population.”
The Holy Family Hospital mobile outreach medical team perform prenatal, paediatric and gynaecological examinations, and laboratory tests. The team also educate mothers about hygiene and childcare, and check on living conditions. During an average stop, the team will examine 30 expectant mothers, all in desperate need of prenatal care.
With great joy and satisfaction all of the Order of Malta await the 50,000th baby to be born at Bethlehem.