Managing ethnic relations in hospitals

There was a Jew and a Muslim and a Christian…it sounds like the start of another corny joke.

Now imagine that you are running a large organisation, where you had significant affiliates of these different religions on your staff. Imagine the special conditions required. Add in that your are located in the Middle East, and you could have the a potential time-bomb on your hands.

By law, the Israeli medical system is open to all, both staff and patients. Some years ago, when my teenage son was hospitalised for a few days, 50% of the ward that week was not Jewish. And the doctors were offering a mixture of languages and cultures.

The experience of Israeli hospitals offers a wonderful message for the stop-start peace process.

For example, Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus hosted a day-long seminar this month on oncological care for 30 doctors, nurses and graduate nursing students from Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron and other West Bank cities.

Yazed Falah, who oversees the coordination between the PA and Rambam said that the seminar was part of the ongoing cooperation between Rambam and the Palestinian Authority. “We initiate activities and seminars like this all the time because we are obligated, on a human level, to help sick people regardless of politics.”

Delegation member Dr Sumia Saij, instructor at Al-Kuds University in Tubas, spoke on the reality in Palestinian Authority hospitals. “In many cases, we don’t have the qualification, the budget or the tools to give medical care to patients who arrive at the hospital. Seminars like this allow us to….reduce the gaps between hospitals in the PA and the more advanced facilities in Israel.”

Every week, some 50 children come to Rambam from the PA to receive oncological and hematological treatments. But this is not an isolated story.

The Sha’are Zedek hospital in Jerusalem last week hosted the Middle East Cancer Consortium and the  Palestinian Al Sadeel Society for a 3 day seminar. The hospital has a number of joint programmes running with different ethnic sectors.

And so the list goes on. To find equivalent projects initiated from the arge Shaati hospital in Gaza has not been possible. Similarly, two Israeli doctors were “disinvited” to a cancer research symposium in Egypt, after their national origins were verified. (Although they were later asked back following strong external representations, they declined). 

It can done if you want to make it happen. Israel has repeatedly shown the way. Time for others to join in and share the benefits.


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One Comment on “Managing ethnic relations in hospitals”

  1. Michael Horesh Says:

    I received a copy of the letter below, and felt it worth posting:

    As the Founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, I want to share this personal letter from me regarding the October 21-27 breast cancer events in Egypt and issues over the attendance of Israeli advocates. There is quite a bit of misinformation circulating, and I hope this letter from me is helpful in clarifying the facts.
    First and most emphatically, we agree that this is a situation that never should have happened. There is no room for discrimination in the effort to end breast cancer globally.
    Susan G. Komen for the Cure has for many years sponsored, organized or participated in international events aimed at eliminating breast cancer on a global scale. Our international mission trips this past October included very good meetings with First Lady Sarah Netanyahu in Israel, First Lady Suzanne Mubarak in Egypt, Princess Dina and Princess Ghida in Jordan and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. These leaders want to help end breast cancer globally and that’s very encouraging.
    Unhappily, on the eve of the start of our Egypt events, we got caught in the crossfire of old sensitivities with the report that some Israeli advocates were initially denied access to our events in Cairo. Sadly, discrimination against Israelis does take place despite the great work that is done there to fight cancer. When we were notified, we launched a diplomatic effort to try and resolve the situation on behalf of our Israeli friends. Those efforts, combined with the efforts of the American Embassy in Cairo, were successful and the Israeli advocates were invited to attend the conference in Cairo.
    Sadly, but understandably, the two delegates from Israel did not attend the events in Egypt. But, because of our long history of work in Israel, I had already planned to travel to Israel following the events in Egypt along with a small delegation. While there, we had a warm and productive meeting with the two Israeli advocates, as well as meetings with Israeli government officials, NGOs, advocacy organizations and survivors. A key focus was planning for events in 2010 to highlight cancer awareness, tobacco control and health diplomacy. You should know we already are planning the first Race for the Cure through Jerusalem in 2010. Since our beginning, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has funded $2 million to research and support programs in Israel (in fact, our very first international research grant went to an Israeli institution in 1994). You can read more about our recent trip and our work in Israel below.
    Nevertheless, the situation in Egypt never should have happened and we are working to ensure that it doesn’t happen again as we move forward in our global efforts.
    Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a humanitarian organization, not a political one. For those who work in politically challenging environments, it’s always very difficult. But as I said earlier, discrimination should never interfere with scientific efforts to prevent cancer, and we will continue to carry out our global mission irrespective of religion or native country.
    As you know, the global cancer pandemic doesn’t respect borders and it is indifferent to peoples’ nationalities or their politics. It will kill millions of people without respect to religion, race or creed. And as cancer is universally deadly, we believe our response must be equally universal.
    I hope this information was helpful in understanding a very difficult situation. We hope you will continue to join us in our effort to end breast cancer forever.
    My best,

    Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker
    Founder, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®

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