JUNE 2022 NEWSLETTER
As one of the Palestinian nurses on the current health training course noted, “we and the Israelis have a common enemy – the disease. We are committed together, to winning”
Ron Finkel AM, Chair, Project Rozana International
A late spring day in May 2022. My first visit to the region in over two years. I’m standing on the top floor of the 250 bed Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron, Palestine. My host is Dr Yousef Takruri the respected CEO of the hospital.
From this vantage point I have an unimpeded view to the Mediterranean.
I’m looking over the hills of this sprawling, powerhouse city of more than 500,000 inhabitants, through the lower reaches of the Judean hills to the Israeli coastal plain and the city of Ashkelon in the distance – a mere 35 kilometres as the crow flies. Trivial if you are a bird but challenging if you are Palestinian.
Checkpoints and permits significantly impede the ability of Dr Takruri and his colleagues to visit hospitals on the Israeli side.
But they haven’t limited his commitment to strengthen the capacity of the Palestinian health system and deliver better outcomes for Palestinian patients.
Dr Takruri and other hospital CEO’s in Palestine are building the future on the basis of expanded cross-border training programs that will ensure that the health professionals in their hospitals will be able to deliver the same standard of healthcare that Palestinians currently get via referrals to hospitals in Israel.
It will also ensure that the doctors, nurses, therapists and specialist technicians trained locally in the Israeli health system will be welcomed back to work in, and support, the Palestinian health network. Train local and stay local.
The benefits of this strategy to Palestine are multiple. Providing career pathways in health in Palestine is one obvious advantage. But an equally direct benefit will flow to the Palestinian treasury – far fewer referrals to hospitals in Israel and the savings that flow from that. While the cost of procedures in the Israeli hospitals is the same for Israelis and Palestinians, the base cost structure on the Israeli side is 40-50% higher than for similar treatment in Palestine. With health being the single largest item in the Palestinian Authority budget, the economic benefit of treating locally where possible is obvious.
The imperative to invest in cross-border training is clear to Dr Takruri and many other health leaders in Palestine.
It is a space in which Project Rozana is increasingly active. Memorandums of Understanding are being finalised with hospitals in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin.
Project Rozana is funding a major initiative training nurses from East Jerusalem’s venerable Augusta Victoria Hospital. The program was formally launched three weeks ago. Over the coming eighteen months, sixty nurses from AVH will do clinical training at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, in oncology, nephrology, aged care and palliative care. The clinical training will be complemented by internationally recognised course work. The benefit of this upskilling will flow directly to better patient outcomes.
Ron Finkel AM
As one of the Palestinian nurses on the current training course noted “we and the Israelis have a common enemy – the disease. We are committed, together, to winning”.
A VISIT TO INSPIRE
Two inspiring peace-building advocates recently visited Australia to share their unique experiences of Project Rozana.
Huda Abuarqoub, Regional Director, Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), a network of 150 civil society organisations, and Ronit Zimmer, Executive Director, Project Rozana Israel, operate at the coalface.
Their stories about facing and overcoming challenges that impact Palestinian healthcare proved to be inspirational for those fortunate enough to meet them on their whirlwind tour. Pictured below, Ronit is on the left, Huda the right.
Huda explained that ALLMEP works in conflict transformation, by focusing on development, and coexistence in the Middle East among Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs and Jews. It is recognised as the fastest-growing peacebuilding community in Palestine and Israel.
She calls Project Rozana “one of the stars of ALLMEP.”
During her first visit to Australia, Huda shared the direct impact of Project Rozana’s work on her own family.
“In Palestine, during Covid-19, Project Rozana supplied 35 ventilators to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Three were delivered to the first dedicated Covid-19 hospital located in Dura near Hebron, which is my hometown.
Having five of my family members being treated and saved because of those ventilators is a testament in itself. Had it not been for such an effort, those five people would have died. All of them are very grateful for the support.”
Huda noted that Project Rozana is an example of an organisation that takes peacebuilding to the next level “by engaging in direct service delivery”.
Speaking on behalf of Project Rozana’s work on the ground, Ronit said a typical day involves engagement with government, civil and not-for-profit organisations on both sides of the ‘green line’.
“This is the best way to identify critical needs in the Palestinian health sector and develop programs to improve healthcare delivery while helping to create conditions for peace.”
In discussing the COVID-19 ventilator donation, Ronit added:
“In the first weeks of the pandemic in February and March 2020, panic buying of ICU grade ventilators by afflicted countries such as Italy, the UK and the USA, led to a global shortage and a huge run-up in the prices of the ventilators. The Palestinian Authority was squeezed out and unable to secure the desperately needed equipment. Through its contacts with the Australian Government, Project Rozana was able to source and procure ventilators for the PA. The ventilators were distributed to major Palestinian hospitals throughout the West Bank.”
The display of warmth and mutual respect between Huda and Ronit created a palpable sense of hope for all who attended the private meetings and the public event in Bankstown, Sydney. This event was hosted by Rotary District 9675 and supported by Khal Asfour, Mayor of the City of Canterbury-Bankstown and Plus61J Media.
“We don’t take hope for granted. It’s the fuel that keeps us going as Palestinians and Israelis. Continue, give us hope that our kids will grow up in a place where they can thrive.”
A similar message resonated in Ronit’s closing remarks:
“For me personally, and as a representative of Project Rozana, we can make an impact on the ground, by getting to know our neighbours. By living together, by working together, by cooperating, by using our capacities to build capacities in Palestine where there are gaps. We’re not talking about aid, we’re not talking about being humanitarian, we’re talking about the fact that gaps exist. We can bridge those gaps and bridge people toward better understanding at the same time.”
She said that by living and working together, and by cooperating to build capacities in the Palestinian health system, gaps that exist can be removed.
For highlights of Huda and Ronit’s speeches, please watch the video below.
PROGRAMS IN ACTION
LAUNCH OF PROJECT ROZANA ONLINE TELECLINIC AT ASSUTA ASHDOD
We are pleased to announce that the new Project Rozana Online Clinic at Assuta Ashdod Hospital was launched at the end of May.
Pioneering Palestinian telehealth for the first time, the online clinic virtually connects Palestinian patients with paediatric issues and complicated non-communicable diseases – cardiology, nephrology, and oncology – with Israeli specialist physicians.
Globally, telehealth clinics have become a critical interface between patients and their doctors, nurses and therapists after COVID-19 stopped many face-to-face consultations. Online medical appointments successfully enable remote symptom assessment and treatment, follow-up, specialist referral and improved Quality of Life for patients.
Non-communicable diseases are the main cause of death and disability in Palestine, with cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancers, and diabetes being the most prevalent.
The high number of deaths from these diseases is augmented by a lack of diagnostic and therapeutic medical supplies and a shortage of qualified medical professionals in specialist fields–all of which severely limit the consultation, referral, and treatment options.
The Coordinator for the new Project Rozana Online Clinic is Dr. Yahya Jaber, a Palestinian physician and nephrology resident at Assuta Ashdod. Dr. Jaber is working with a team of specialist physicians who will provide a qualified response to many of these medical issues, connecting Israeli doctors with hundreds of Palestinians with serious illnesses and helping them to achieve positive health outcomes.
Project Rozana Chair Ron Finkel AM said,
“The Online clinic will provide easy access to treatment for Palestinian patients, in the cardio-thoracic, oncology, renal and paediatric fields while contributing to building bridges of trust between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Project Rozana’s Online Clinic is providing access to specialized treatment for Palestinian patients, in the cardio-thoracic, oncology, and renal fields.
TRAINING TOWARDS THE FUTURE OF PALESTINIAN NURSING
60 AVH nurses will rotate through key specialty fields including the oncology, nephrology and dialysis, critical care, and geriatric departments at Hadassah, enabling them to provide better care for their patients and ultimately train the next generation of Palestinian nurses.
This program serves to upskill the nurses in their approach to treatment and reporting, and creates a community of nursing peers.
The first Specialist Nursing Training and observation day took place in March 2022.
Rely Alon, head of nursing at Hadassah, said:
“We are neighbours, we should share not only knowledge but a vision for the next generations, for our children, in order to have a better world.”
The AVH nurses were divided into groups, each shadowing Hadassah nursing staff. In most of the departments, they were accompanied by Arabic-speaking nurses to make communication easier.
During the rounds, AVH nurses learned how Hadassah manages shift and staff divisions, medicine distribution, patient care and pain management. As Hadassah serves a considerably larger population than AVH, the nurses said the range and diversity of cases at Hadassah gave them important access to vital information. By upgrading their skills, they were confident that this would easily translate into the level of care they would deliver at AVH.
Participant, Mudallalah Maharir, an oncology nurse from Hebron, shared,
“I’m hoping to gain expertise, to better myself and my patients will benefit from my time here.”
In the follow-up second training day in May, Project Rozana’s Samuel Schidem (Germany), Ron Finkel (Chair), Diana Shehade and Ronit Zimmer (Israel) joined the AVH group for a nursing rotation in Hadassah’s paediatric and adult oncology wards.
They spoke to AVH nurses and Dr. Caryn Andrews, who developed the oncology training curriculum and Dr. Nurit Zusman, head of nursing at Hadassah, as well as with Dr. Amal Abu Awad, head of nursing at AVH.
The AVH nurses were very pleased with the training program noting that their skills were being upgraded and that the new learnings would easily be translated into the care they deliver at AVH.
Muhammad Saher Awawde, an oncology nurse from Hebron, highlighted the cultural collaboration,
“We have sick people to serve, therefore, we share the same goal and vision.”
Dr. Julie Benbenishty, who heads trauma nursing at Hadassah and is a co-founder of Nurses in the Middle East, is developing the critical care modules as part of the next phase in the SNT.
Project Rozana’s Specialist Nursing Training program is a professional development initiative bringing together Palestinian and Israeli nurses.