In early June, the cases of Covid-19 began to grow exponentially in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the area from where the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem draws its patients. The hardship of this pandemic is unlike any past hardship experienced in the region Michele Burke Bowe, the Order of Malta’s ambassador in Palestine explains in her update.
In early July, the Government reinstated a second shutdown (the first one was in March), including the complete closure of all churches, mosques, businesses and schools. The Ministry of Health is counting on these drastic measures to slow the spread of the virus which has been growing at a rate of as much as 5% per day. The fragile health system could collapse with this increased rate of cases.
The outbreak has now grown to infect over 9,000 people, mostly from the Bethlehem and Hebron regions. Today there are over 81 infected healthcare workers and 30,000 people in isolation because of exposure. These figure likely only capture a fraction of the numbers infected as the desperate economic situation forces those who have work to do so, even with a sick household member. Sick people are not getting tested because of the road closures and the fear of breadwinners being quarantined without income.
The second closure is dramatically impacting the Order of Malta’s Hospital which was not able to stay free of the virus. A pre-symptomatic mother delivered her baby at the Hospital and when she became sick, her whole care team had to be tested and quarantined. The head of Obstetrics was also exposed to Covid-19 and had to be isolated, but ultimately did not test positive.
The hospital is busy with daily births ranging from twelve to nineteen. There will be an increase in complicated deliveries due to the lack of prenatal care from the closure of clinics and a higher rate of admittance to the NICU. The NICU is running at or over capacity with more complicated and cost intensive cases than usual.
This 3-month shutdown of Bethlehem and the closure of the Hebron Road contained the spread of the virus but had a great economic impact on the Hospital. Most families could no longer contribute at all toward their care or deliveries creating a large unplanned deficit of $600,000 in the Hospital budget. “The Holy Family Hospital Foundation in Washington is working harder than ever before to find funding to keep the doors of our Hospital open during this crisis”, the Ambassador says.
Bethlehem needs Holy Family Hospital now more than ever before to keep the mothers and babies safe and Holy Family Hospital needs help more than ever before to continue to care for all.
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