Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has proposed that Israeli medical doctors work in Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank as a way to save on the cost of sending patients for treatment in Israel.
Shtayyeh made the suggestion during a meeting with a delegation from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel held in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The PA has long paid for most medical bills of Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are referred to Israeli hospitals for treatment that is not available in Palestinian hospitals. But it stopped paying for the treatments in March amid a financial crisis caused by a dispute with Israel over the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.
A PA Health Ministry spokesman at the time said the decision to stop the medical care payments came because Israel was overcharging for the treatments.
Shtayyeh repeated that accusation to the visiting doctors during their meeting on Wednesday. He told them that Israeli hospitals had been extorting Palestinians with exorbitant prices and unnecessarily long hospital stays to inflate the costs and that is why the PA stopped the payments, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
Shtayyeh said he had proposed that an independent accountant look into the expenses, but Israeli hospitals had refused to cooperate.
PHRI executive director Ran Goldstein told Kan that Shtayyeh’s proposal for Israeli doctors to work in the West Bank was feasible.
“I think it is very practical,” he said, claiming that Shtayyeh’s offer was extended to Arab and Jewish doctors alike (the Wafa report said it only referred to Arab Israeli physicians). “That is not to say that a doctor will go and work full time in the West Bank, but if there is some kind of a program, with goodwill from both sides, from the Israelis and Palestinians, it is certainly possible.”
Goldstein said he believed many doctors would be interested in participating out of a sense of moral duty.
Israeli sources who are familiar with the treatment programs rejected Shtayyeh’s claims of high costs and prolonged stays, the radio station said. Kan noted that while most of the treatments have been halted, senior PA officials and their family members are still receiving treatments, paid for by Ramallah.
While the PA stopped referrals to Israeli hospitals, it has continued to make them to hospitals in East Jerusalem.
In the 12 months before the PA stopped the payments some 50,000 Palestinians were treated in Israeli hospitals at a cost of some $100 million in healthcare bills, according to the PA Health Ministry.
The PA has seen its coffers shrink since it began refusing to accept tax transfers from Israel in February to protest Israel garnishing the transfers to offset payments the PA makes to terrorists and their families. Israel says the policy encourages further violence, while PA President Mahmoud Abbas had insisted he receive all or nothing.
Earlier this month the PA agreed to again accept the tax transfers, which amount to some NIS 600 million (about $170 million) a month and are a key source of financing for the PA. Israel collects the taxes on goods passing through Israeli ports on their way to the Palestinian territories.