Our main hospital in East Jerusalem has been operating for 137 years. The hospital is the main provider of eye care for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and sees many of the most complex eye cases from across the oPt, which are referred to us from medical centres across the West Bank and Gaza. As it is the only charitable provider of eye care, the importance of the hospital for the region cannot be overstated.
St John Eye Hospital has a large outpatients department, specialist eye units, operating theatres and 24-hour eye emergency services
Our hospital is internationally recognised as operating to the highest standards. St John Eye Hospital recently became the first Palestinian hospital to be awarded the three-year Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation. JCI is a US-based organisation that has established patient safety and quality service standards for health facilities worldwide.
With high rates of poverty in the region, it is essential that we continue to make our services available to all. We treat patients regardless of their ethnicity, religion or ability to pay.
Every specialty covered
From its outset, St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group (SJEHG) was exclusively served by Western expatriates. This continued until the turn of the twentieth century, when the Nursing School and the doctors’ Medical Residency Programme for Palestinians were introduced at St John. With the political unrest and changes in policy in many of the Western eye institutes, it became increasingly difficult for expatriates to come over for prolonged periods of time. Some came for one to three weeks providing a vital, if staggered, specialist ophthalmic service. In line with the mission and vision of St John to provide a sustainable service of excellence to the people we serve by building capacity locally, over the past 10 years Palestinian ophthalmologists have been trained and empowered to fulfil this role. St John can now boast of Palestinian specialists in every field of ophthalmology, except complex oncology (one of the few services which are readily available in the area).
We have two of the only paediatric specialists in the oPt. They provide a critical service to some of the 2 million children (making up 47% of the Palestinian population) we serve. We also have the only Palestinian glaucoma specialist, whose clinics are often filled with infants and children. Diabetes is another scourge for Palestinians, affecting close to 20% of the population. The two retinal surgeons and two medical retina specialists are kept busy dealing with this growing number of patients, many of whom need complex retinal surgery to salvage what little vision they have left. We also have a uveitis specialist, who takes care of inflammatory eye disease, especially Behçet’s Disease. Keratoconus (where the cornea is conical rather than spherical) is a common problem among Palestinians, accounting for 80% of those patients who needed corneal transplants in 2013. Our two corneal specialists competently manage these patients. The social stigma of ‘being different’ can be devastating to families. Our oculoplastic specialist performs reconstructive surgery amongst other types, and is changing lives by providing this much-needed service to our patients.
St John’s genetic research project Peace for Sight, was established in February 2016.
A genetic laboratory has been established and equipped at St John, in cooperation with Hadassah Medical Center. The laboratory performs DNA extraction and basic genetic screening that will be supervised by our Peace in Sight team. Eventually, our team will publish their research, focused on the Palestinian population (an isolated group of individuals very seldom studied in ophthalmic medicine) in international journals, which will have a global impact on the medicinal field.
The most important beneficiaries of this project will be Palestinian patients with genetic eye diseases. The project’s main aim is to provide sustainable treatment and medical solutions for those people who have had no other option in the past. This will have a significant long-term impact by preventing the inherited disease from developing in the next generation through identifying and treating the genes responsible for hereditary molecular diseases in the Palestinian population.
Launched in 2018 our Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness is the first major piece of research into the prevalence of blindness undertaken in the occupied Palestinian territories in over a decade. RAAB is a population-based survey of adults age 50 years and over, using rapid examination techniques. It will give SJEHG a better understanding of where best to focus our efforts in the coming years.