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Hebron hospital staff stages strike over $7-million debt owed by PA

Jan. 3, 2017 10:09 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2017 4:35 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- More than 200 employees of the al-Mezan private hospital in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron went on strike on Monday in protest of not having received salaries for three months due to outstanding debts from the Palestinian Authority (PA) amounting to millions of dollars.

A spokesman for the hospital staff, Sharif Taradi, told Ma'an that protests would continue as long as employees were not paid regularly.

"Some 250 people work at al-Mezan hospital, and we haven't received our salaries for the last three months," Taradi said, adding that salaries hadn't been paid regularly for about a year.

The hospital's financial crisis, the doctor said, was due to a failure by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to pay back money it owes the hospital. Al-Mezan General Director Hazem Shalalda said that the debt was worth an estimated 27 million shekels ($7 million).

The Palestinian Ministry of Health refers thousands of patients who have government insurance to private hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem when public hospitals cannot provide advanced medical care, such as surgery or cancer treatment.

According to Yasser Abu Safiya, the chairman of the union for non-governmental hospitals in the West Bank, "private hospitals in Palestine witness crippling financial crises, usually at the end of the year, because the Palestinian Authority does not pay its debts regularly."

He highlighted the cases of the Augusta Victoria and al-Maqasid hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem, to which the PA owes 290 million shekels ($75 million).

The PA’s health and finance ministries, Abu Safiya said, have already approved the payment of debts to private hospitals amounting to 300 million shekels ($77.9 million), with another 300 million-shekel payment pending auditing and approval.

The Palestinian Authority has faced crippling financial crises with regularity since its inception in 1994, due in large part to its lack of control over resources and trade because of Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, serious structural deficiencies in the ways the PA collects and allocates funds, and decreases in donor funding.

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