ROAD TO RECOVERY IN THE WEST BANK
The reach of Road to Recovery, an organization established in Israel by Yuval Roth in 2010, was always limited by the checkpoints on the border of the West Bank and Gaza.
It was a life-saver for Palestinian patients with Palestinian Authority referrals to Israeli hospitals. But for many patients the cost of public transport and taxis to reach the checkpoints from their homes, was impossibly high. It made desperately needed treatment inaccessible.
For them, Road to Recovery was tantalizingly out of reach.
It was a problem that greatly concerned Yuval and later, Project Rozana which has become the major international funder of the service.
All of that changed for West Bank patients with the forging of a relationship in 2018 between Project Rozana and Hebron-based humanitarian organization, Green Land Society for Health Development (GLSHD).
How this has impacted Palestinian families in the West Bank is detailed in the latest GLSHD mid-year report compiled by its executive director, Dr A. Abdul Rhamen, a trained physiotherapist and Associate Professor of Physiotherapy at Al-Quds University.
In his report, Dr A. Abdel-Rahman raises the following key points:
- In order to increase awareness of the transport service offered by Road to Recovery in the West Bank and to recruit more volunteer drivers, currently close to 100, GLSHD has engaged with a range of organizations such as the Baytna Center in Hebron and municipalities in Bethlehem and surrounding villages. This has been extremely successful.
- GLSHD started showing a new video ‘So I Can Live: Abdallah’s Journey’ commissioned by Project Rozana, which tells the story of a young Palestinian child who travels every day to Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem from his home in a village near Hebron for life-saving medical treatment. Until Project Rozana, the cost of public transport was way beyond the family’s means. This has proven to be a powerful medium to explain how Road to Recovery in the West Bank can assist families and is also a motivator for volunteer drivers.
- In the November 2018 – April 2019 period, there were 737 individual patient transfers with at least one companion.
- The age range was one month to 71 years with the majority between one to ten years old.
- Of the patients transferred, 60% were female, and 40% were male.
- Of the reasons for transport, leukemia was the most common medical condition (37.4%), followed by kidney dialysis (11.5%), kidney cancer (8.3%), bone marrow transplant (6.6%), bone cancer (6.0%) and lung cancer (5.6%). The least common conditions were orthopedic problems (1.5%) and rehabilitation services (1.1%).
Among the hospitals where patients were transferred was Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan (68.1%), Rambam Hospital in Haifa (9.5%), Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem (8.1%), and Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem (6.1%). Three East Jerusalem hospitals were also attended: Augusta Victoria Hospital (3.5%), Al Maqased (0.4%) and St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital (0.1%).
In summarizing the activity of the past six months Dr A. Abdel-Rahman also noted two issues that impacted the program:
- Volunteer drivers were stopped and fined as police believed they were using private cars to transport people for commercial gain. To overcome the problem, drivers were issued with a GLSHD-branded vest and provided with a volunteer card. The organization also liaised with local police to tell them of these identifiers.
- Patients living in the northern West Bank typically used the Qalandia checkpoint because of its proximity to Hadassah Hospital. However, this checkpoint was far from cities like Jenin and Tubas, making it difficult to get volunteer drivers. So the organization paid for private taxis to take patients as a group. This of course, has had an impact on GLSHD’s financial resources.