Covid-19: A Message from our CEO, Ahmad Ma’ali
- 24 Mar 2020
Dear Friends and Supporters,
I wanted to let you know that under the current global situation with COVID-19, we are facing unprecedented challenges at St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group.
The city of Bethlehem remains under quarantine with more case confirmed in recent days. Our work in Bethlehem has therefore come to a halt as our staff cannot enter. There are now 450 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel, 44 confirmed cases in the West Bank, and zero in Gaza.
St John Eye Hospital has been implementing all local and national guidelines to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. We have strict guidelines in place to manage staff sickness as well as any signs or symptoms presented by patients or their visitors. We are doing our utmost to ensure these measures are keeping our patients and staff safe.
The Jerusalem Hospital
Due to the nationally implemented guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem has seen a 40% reduction in clinical activities and hospital income.
The Eye Hospital is in a unique situation where we receive directives from two governments. The Israeli Authorities imposed a complete closure of the West Bank from March 18th, 2020 which meant our staff residing in the area cannot enter Jerusalem for work. This also means that only patients with scheduled major operations are allowed to enter Jerusalem.
We have also suspended all outreach activities as instructed by the Palestinian Authorities and now only conduct outreach services for the Jerusalemites residing outside the wall.
As a reliable and top employer in the community we are adhering to our emergency plan and ensuring all our staff are cared for. Our key clinical staff and senior managers continue to work through the restrictions, while others have been granted annual leave.
West Bank and Gaza Hospitals/Centers
The work in both Anabta and Hebron remain until now uninterrupted but with a 20-30% reduction in the overall clinical activities. As the number of outpatients in Jerusalem is expected to fall, we have planned for our senior doctors to conduct more subspecialty clinics in Anabta and Hebron.
Our work in Gaza continues as usual with a very slight reduction in Outpatient numbers.
London Fundraising Team
As most major cities, London too has been under government advice to limit activity. Our London team are fully operational while mostly working remotely. We have ensured that our team is reachable to respond to any queries. The loss of income due to a decrease in our services and cancelled fundraising events is of grave concern. It creates a real possibility of a funding gap for our charitable work when we resume our services later in the year.
We are facing a shortage of supplies due to the enhanced restrictions in the movement of people and goods. In particular there is a shortage of protective gear such as surgical masks, gloves, gowns and disinfectants in Israel and PA areas. Whilst we have tried our utmost to prepare for this situation, we only have enough supplies to last us for another two to three months. We are sourcing more supplies, however, as is the case globally, the prices for these items has increased significantly, some more than 400%.
It is expected that the Israeli Authority will further restrict movements for both Israelis and Palestinians in the next few weeks. We expect the Eye Hospital to provide mainly emergency eye care following that instruction. In order to reduce unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19, only essential staff will remain on duty and all other staff will be given annual leave.
As this is a global pandemic, we can understand that many of our loyal grant-making bodies have had to delay their internal processes. Similarly, our donors are having to review their own positions. To any of you affected, we wish you a speedy recovery and hope this period of huge difficulty and uncertainty will be short-lived. The team at St John Eye Hospital has been overwhelmed with the good wishes of our supporters around the world and want to thank you for thinking of us during this challenging time. This is a dynamic situation and we will continue to review our approach in line with any new guidance for the benefit of our patients, staff and our supporters.
My best wishes to you and your family as we navigate the days ahead together.
Dr Ahmad Ma’ali