Palestine: better care eases burden for patients and carers

Friday, March 05, 2010

A Canadian Lutheran World Relief project doubled the number of beds in an East Jerusalem hospital, bringing relief especially to women.  Within days, the beds were full and a waiting list created.

Augusta Victoria Hospital, East Jerusalem, refurbished and expanded its sub-acute care facilities at the hospital in response to the region’s growing senior population and the fact nearly half Palestinian households have a member suffering a chronic illness or disability.

The 25 beds nearly doubled what existed. Already the long-term care center has 100 per cent occupancy and a waiting list.  It is staffed by a geriatrician, 12 nurses and two physiotherapists and provides 24 hour medical care to individuals with chronic health problems like stroke, cancer, heart disease, head trauma, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.  Patients in the unit range from 65 to 90 years. The average length of stay is 184 days.  Most patients need around the clock care and are supported on feeding tubes. Many need regular dialysis.

The expanded unit has been a blessing for Palestinian women who often bear the brunt of caring for elderly family members - overwhelming when added to the tasks of maintaining a home, caring for other family members and keeping gainful employment. The psychosocial impact for women of obtaining geriatric care for elderly family members cannot be overestimated.

Jamil Awad has been in the unit for several years.  His daughter, Ronda, says that “the unit is wonderfully clean and my mother just wasn’t able to care for Dad, who is now 79, at home by herself anymore”.

Rana Abdullah, whose 80-year old husband, Emile, has been there for eight months, says, “I just wouldn’t be able to afford the equipment and nursing care Emile needs at home.  The hospital is wonderful in allowing 24 hour visiting for family.”

The unit is bright, clean and cheerful and there are continuous supportive, friendly interactions between family members and staff.

Ibrahim Abdul Karim, whose brother is a long-time patient says, “We are like one big family.”  They love having staff that can speak to them in their own language.  This 24 hour visiting policy means family members from the West Bank are spared the tedious trip through the check points to visit their loved ones.