- Why are you there?
- What are your main tasks there?
- Why is the level of blindness so high in this region?
- Is the Hospital well equipped?
- Do you treat both Arab and Israeli patients?
- Is there cooperation with other Hospitals?
- Does the Hospital have any political position?
- Do patients find it easy to get to the Hospital?
- What do you do about this difficulty?
- How do I best support you?
- From where do you get your funding?
- How much do you spend on Administration?
- Who runs the Hospital?
- Are you anything to do with St John Ambulance?
- Where exactly is the Hospital?
- How do you get there?
- Is it safe in Jerusalem?
- Do you encourage visitors?
- What does the future hold?
Q. Why are you there?
A. We are there to prevent and relieve the suffering of our patients. The incidence of blindness is 10 times higher amongst Palestinians than it is in developed countries. The need for our services is great.
Q. What are your main tasks?
A. The St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group is the only charity offering expert eye care to the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Our goal, in line with the World Health organisation Vision2020 programme, is to eliminate preventable blindness in the region. Core activities of the Eye Hospital Group include:
1. East Jerusalem Eye Hospital
2. Hebron Eye Hospital
3. Gaza Clinic
4. Anabta Clinic
5. Two mobile Outreach Clinics serving remote villages and refugee camps in the West Bank
Training the next generation of local Doctors and Nurses is also an essential objective. We recognise that, in training local people, we are investing in the region and beginning to rebuild a fractured infrastructure.
Q. Why is the level of blindness so high in this region?
A. The Palestinian rate of blindness is so high because of the very particular patterns of disease and demographics in the communities we serve. Movement restrictions and the erection of the Separation Wall are having severe effects on health and nutrition. Without access to healthcare, the sick attempt to self-prescribe their medication, or “stretch” it to make it last, and there is a shortage of essential foodstuffs due to border controls. The result is diminished immune systems and higher prices for the food that is available.
Most significantly, the Wall and its consequent enclaves have resulted in social issues that greatly influence the wellbeing of children. The inability of residents living within immured areas to meet those from outside is leading to a rise in consanguineous marriages and in children born with congenital diseases, including eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal degeneration, optic atrophy and eye malformations. Indeed, there is often more than one child in each family with such a congenital conditional, and children with eye problems are often hidden at home and not sent to school.
It is vital that such children receive treatment. Because of the high ratio of children to adults in Palestinian communities (almost a third of the Palestinian population of about 4.25 million is under 10 years old), without it, needless impaired vision and loss of sight will shatter generations and stigmatise individuals already growing up in a deleterious political climate.
In adults, cataracts are the major cause of blindness, severe visual impairment and visual impairment. 20,000 people in the Palestinian Territories are estimated to suffer blindness or visual impairment through cataract; of these 4,138 may be blind and 2,483 may have severe visual impairment.
Phthysis (corneal scarring) is the next leading cause of blindness in adults, followed by diabetic retinopathy.
In adults, diabetes is three times (14-16%) more prevalent than in the West. It is a pandemic medical and social scourge. Patients cannot afford the insulin injections used to treat diabetes, and poverty and malnutrition mean that there is a terrible lack of awareness of some of its causes. In the West, sufferers look forward to many years of relative normality, but in the Palestinian territories diabetes poses a real threat. It is vital that we address this looming catastrophe.
Q. Is the Hospital well equipped?
A. Yes, to an exceptional high standard that enables modern diagnosis and care both in the outpatient and operating theatre areas.
Q. Do you treat both Arab and Israeli patients?
A. Israeli services are fully developed – those serving the Palestinian community are not. Our doors are open to all who seek our help (regardless of religion or race) but the vast majority of our patients are Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank – for whom we are the major provider of eye care.
Q. Is there cooperation with other Hospitals?
A. Yes, we have excellent working relationships with both Israeli Hospitals (in particular Hadassah and Soroka) and other Arab hospitals in East Jerusalem. Together with the world-renowned Hadassah Medical Centre, we run a very successful Joint Training Programme. We are very proud of this initiative, which helps facilitate a hugely valuable cross-cultural interchange of skills and ideas.
Q. Does the Hospital have any political position?
A. No, we are a humanitarian organisation only, with the neutrality this dictates. That said, we have to react to the political situation and adapt our services so that we may be in a position to best help those most in need of our care.
Q. Do patients find it easy to get to the Hospital?
A. East Jerusalemites can get to our Hospital very easily. However, those living in Gaza and the West Bank find it increasingly difficult and expensive to reach Jerusalem due to the presence of road blocks and of the Separation Barrier.
Q. What do you do about this difficulty?
A. The Gaza Strip has been isolated for some time now, and we have a long-established permanent presence there. Recently, we have opened two new satellite clinics in the West Bank (one in the North and one in the South). In this way far more patients now have “easy access” to St John care. To reach remote communities and refugee camps, and those villages severely affected by the Separation Barrier, we operate daily Mobile Clinics that penetrate even the most inaccessible parts of the West Bank.
Q. How do I best support you?
A. The best way to support our activities is through donations. We need a continuous supply of funds to enable us to do our much-needed charitable work. Further, we always need to attract international well-trained ophthalmic surgeons.
Q. From where do you get your funding?
A. From three main sources:
- 1. Firstly, patient income: in effect this refers to payments from both Israeli and Palestinian and UN public health insurance providers. These payments, unfortunately, have been very irregular of late – and generally fall short of what it actually costs us to provide our services.
- 2. The 8 world wide Priories of St John all fundraise on our behalf and support us financially.
- 3. We raise money from a wide variety of other sources, including individuals, NGO's, Trusts and Legacies. We do this both from Jerusalem and from our London office.
Q. How much do you spend on Administration?
A. Last year 10% of our total expenditure was spent on Management and Administration. These costs included managing the Hospital in Jerusalem and two static clinics, as well as co-ordinating two mobile outreach clinics and our medical and nursing training programmes. The cost of generating funds represented only 7% of our total expenditure. As a rule of thumb, a charity needs to invest around 10% to 20% of the amount it wishes to raise. We believe therefore our fundraising efforts are extremely good value for money.
Q. Who runs the Hospital?
A. The Hospital is incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary company of the Order of St John. It is, however, an independent charity in its own right. There is a governing Board of Directors, and a Chief Executive who resides at the Hospital.
Q. Has it anything to do with St John Ambulance?
A. We are two members of the same family, although separate and with very different mandates.
As the first sovereign head of Order of St John in Britain, Queen Victoria reconstituted the Order in 1888 and in doing so created two Foundations: the Hospital Foundation and the Ambulance Foundation.
Q. Where exactly is the Hospital?
A. In the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem, situated on Mount Scopus adjacent to the Mount of Olives. It is about 1 mile from the Damascus Gate of the Old City.
Q. How do you get there?
A. The closest airports are Tel-Aviv in Israel and Amman in Jordan.
Q. Is it safe in Jerusalem?
A. The Hospital is located in one of the safest areas of the city, and we have never experienced a worrying incident there. Travel in and around the Old City is safe, although there are times and places to avoid. At the time of writing access to Gaza is by and large impossible.
Q. Do you encourage visitors?
A. Our main and recurring need is for a steady stream of professionals with relevant ophthalmic skills. Please refer to our "Becoming a Medical Volunteer" section for more details about participating in a working visit to the Hospital.
Should you find yourself in the region, we urge you to please get in touch. We will then attempt to arrange a tour of the Hospital for you and your party. Visits allow you to see our services and activities first hand, services which are only made possible through your generous support.
Q. What does the future hold?
A. This depends on the politics of the region! We would very much like to extend our clinical services in both the West Bank and Gaza, and we aim to increase our teaching and training.
For more information
Please email info [at] stjohneyehospital [dot] org or telephone 020 7253 2582.
- The Main Hospital
- Gaza Clinic
- Hebron Hospital
- Anabta Centre
- Mobile Outreach
- Training and Teaching
- Research at the Eye Hospital
- History of the Order of St John
- St John Worldwide
- Hospital Board
- Hospital Group Directors Committee
- Jerusalem Fundraising Office
- London Fundraising and Marketing Office
- Staff Vacancies