February 26, 2024

War and peace: Israeli physicians treating Palestinian patients  

In the midst of the bitter war between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza, there is a ray of humanitarian light. In a letter to The Lancet, three doctors from the Rambam Health Care Campus, a tertiary-care, academic, government medical centre in Haifa in the north of Israel, said that their hospital was still treating Palestinian patients from Gaza and the West Bank.

Two years ago, they write, Rambam “launched a mission to bridge the gap between Israeli and Palestinian communities and offer services, including paediatric and adult haemato–oncological services, to Palestinian patients from both Gaza and the West Bank. To that end, we established a special coordination unit to facilitate optimal clinical and administrative management for these individuals.”

They provided treatment for 34 paediatric patients (aged 2 months to 13 years) and 84 adults (aged 16 to 74), who could be treated in Gaza or the West Bank. They were suffering from life-threatening diseases like acute leukaemia and bone marrow failure.

Apart from medical care, we have taken upon ourselves the task to address a broad array of other needs not otherwise covered for this population, such as food, housing, clothing, and medically necessary health care of their accompanying family members, transportation from checkpoints to the hospital and back, religious services, and free-time activities for the younger patients. Moreover, with the aim of providing autonomy in health care to the highest degree, we provided residency and fellowship-level training to Palestinian physicians in Gaza and the West Bank. Graduates maintain ties with the Rambam Health Care Campus and have gone on to be able to deliver many aspects of care close to the patients’ homes.

After October 7, everything changed. But the Rambam staff have continued to treat patients who cannot return home during the hostilities:

Despite the murderous crimes committed by Hamas, we believe in the strength of humanity and are doing our best to render medical and support care to those in need at our doorstep and within our facility, irrespective of the patients’ religion or nationality. The same is true in multiple clinical departments at the Rambam Health Care Campus and at medical centres throughout Israel. We demand from Hamas an attitude of care towards our hostages and call for their immediate release …

The human spirit will prevail and good will triumph over evil, which will enable us to resume the mission of professional and human cooperation for the sake of the patients, to which end we have sworn our physician’s oath.