Patients need access through Erez crossing checkpoint; Rafah opens for 10 days in June

Monthly report by WHO on Gaza patient referrals said that more than 2,000 patients applied for permits to cross Erez checkpoint for hospital appointments in June, the highest number of patient requests recorded for a single month since WHO began monitoring permit requests. However, the permit approval rate dropped and denied requests increased compared to the previous 3 months.

According to the Palestinian District Liaison office in Gaza, 80.07% of patients were approved, 13.41% received no response to their applications (288 patients, including 79 children) and 6.52% were denied permits (140 patients, including 9 children). 10 patients, all males, were requested to attend Israeli security interviews after applying for a permit. One patient was later approved a permit.

The Israeli COGAT health coordination office responded to WHO regarding the 140 patients denied in June by saying that permit requests of 21 patients were denied on the grounds that patients were deemed ‘unlikely to return to Gaza’, or ‘their medical condition could be treated locally’; 3 patients with expired visitor visas and without Israeli-issued IDs were granted permits; and 126 requests were received less than 7 days prior to their hospital appointment, leaving insufficient processing time for permits.

On the other hand, the Rafah terminal was partially opened on 10 days and closed on the remaining days in June. 80 patients were transferred by ambulances towards Egypt with 95 companions. The border has been opened a total of only 15 days so far this year, allowing a total of only 127 patients to cross into Egypt for health care, less than 5% of the pre-July 2013 closure monthly numbers.

MoH referrals in June

The Ministry of Health referrals of Gaza patients in June less than the average for the first 5 months of 2015: According to the Ministry of Health Referral Abroad Department (RAD) in Gaza, 1,723 referrals were issued in June for specialized treatment unavailable in Gaza MoH health facilities. Oncology, orthopaedic surgery, ophthalmology, nuclear medicine, and paediatrics were the top 5 specialties needed in June.

Gender gap

The gender gap in Gaza referrals remained very wide: 58.44% male patients versus 41.56% female patients. 29.37% of all referrals were for children aged 0-17 years and 17.6% were for patients aged over 60 years.

The estimated cost of referrals for June hit almost  seven million NIS ( $1.85 million)