WHO: Eight Patients Denied Permit to Leave Gaza Strip, including one child

12:00 May 22 2012 Erez checkpoint, Gaza

JERUSALEM, May 23, 2012 (WAFA) – Eight patients from the Gaza Strip were denied permits during April to leave the sea enclave through Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint with Israel to get medical treatment in Israeli, Palestinian or Jordanian hospitals, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report published Tuesday.

The report on referral of patients from the Gaza Strip published monthly by the Right to Health Advocacy said while April approval rate was almost 95%, yet 8 patients out of 764 referrals were denied a permit to leave through Erez, and 32 patients, including one child, did not receive a response to their permit request in time and missed the date of their hospital appointment.

“Delays in processing applications can be critical for patients who are waiting for urgent medical treatment,” said WHO.

It said that in 2011, three patients died before receiving permits to travel through Erez crossing to access the hospitals they have been referred to, and that since 2008, 70 referral patients were reported to have died before reaching medical care outside Gaza – 50 referrals through Erez crossing and 20 through Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

WHO said 1,037 patients were referred to hospitals outside the Gaza Strip, of which 741 required exit through Erez checkpoint. The majority of these (62%) were to Palestinian hospitals in the occupied territory.

The report said that for the first time since WHO began monitoring patient referral data, more female patients than male patients were asked to attend interrogation by the security services.

It said that 23 patients – 13 female and 10 male – were called for interrogation by the Israeli General Security Services (GSS) as a condition of their permit application. Following their interrogation, 11 patients were still waiting for a GSS response, seven were approved, four were asked to submit a new request, and one was denied, said the report.

Palestinians have regularly complained that the GSS tries to recruit permit applicants to work for them as spies or collaborators in return for granting them permits.

The main reasons for patient referrals during April were for cardiovascular (16%), oncology (15%), ophthalmology (7%), orthopedics (5%) and neurosurgery (5%) treatment, said the report. These cases represent 48% of the total referrals and 63% of the estimated total referral cost in April, which was over $3 million.

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