Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta


Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem: over 4,700 births in 2019. Nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit: the parents’ joy becomes ours

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Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, run by the Order of Malta since 1990, is the only medical facility in the West Bank to offer a neonatal intensive care unit where premature babies, even only 23 weeks old, or those with congenital problems, can be treated with cutting-edge therapies.

Parents are followed here by specialised staff who help them cope with a process that can be very long and with uncertain outcome. “The most difficult aspect of our work is the anxiety about what could happen to our little ones,” says Ishraf, one of the nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit. “The most delicate part,” she adds, “is the relationship with the baby’s parents. Our task is to reassure and comfort them even if we ourselves are very worried.”

Take the case of Ayla, Alma and Lea, triplets born prematurely last May. At birth they weighed less than two kilogrammes each. The parents, both professionals at the Hebron University in Palestine, were terrified to even hold them, they seemed so small and fragile. The fear of becoming attached and then losing them had made them incapable of interacting with the babies, so a specialised team of social workers and psychologists gave them the necessary emotional support to create a bond with their infants.

“The best moment is when the doctors finally tell parents that their children are well and can leave the hospital. No one can imagine the joy we read in the eyes of these parents and we’re lucky to be able to share this happiness with them, so that it also became ours!” another nurse in the hospital tells us.

This is exactly the case of the premature triplets: two were discharged in July and the third in August. Now they are at home with their parents. But the work of the neonatal intensive care unit continues, ready to receive other babies needing care and assistance.

With a death rate of under 1 percent, 4,700 babies were born in 2019 in the hospital in Bethlehem, just 700 metres from the Basilica of the Nativity.