From the Worldwide Faith News archives

East Jerusalem: "How Can I Run a Hospital in These Conditions?"

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Fri, 21 Feb 2003 12:34:58 -0600

East Jerusalem: "How Can I Run a Hospital in These Conditions?"

EAST JERUSALEM/GENEVA, 21 February 2003 (LWI) -The Augusta
Victoria Hospital (AVH) stretched its limited resources even
further last year to treat 4,615 inpatients and 13,262 emergency
and outpatients - a 14 percent increase over the previous year.
Dialysis sessions more than doubled in 2002 to 5,840.

But statistics tell only part of the story of the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF)-run hospital. Located on the Mount of Olives in
East Jerusalem, the AVH is struggling to survive. It is open to
all regardless of creed, providing a wide range of medical
services for refugees and the general Palestinian population.

Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, the chief executive officer, who was born 40
years ago in a hospital room that is now his office, helps fill in
the rest.

Head of the hospital administration since 1997, the US-educated
Nasser has a background in clinical immunology and health services
administration. He needs all of his skills in a highly charged
environment in which stress has become an integral part of daily
life. More than 80 percent of the 180 Palestinians who make up the
hospital's staff live in the West Bank. Many come to work angry
and fatigued after long delays at Israeli military checkpoints. As
a Palestinian living in the West Bank Nasser knows what it is like
to waste precious hours waiting to pass through checkpoints. His
movements are tightly controlled and he must carry four pieces of
paper identification. Even with the proper paperwork, there is no
guarantee that getting through the checkpoints will be

Nasser recalls leaving his home in Ramallah at the same time as a
friend who was on his way to the airport near Tel Aviv to catch a
flight to Paris. Four hours after they parted, his friend phoned
to say he had just arrived in France, the AVH administrator had
just arrived in the hospital's parking lot.

There are times when Nasser wonders how he will pay staff the
salaries needed to feed families in areas of chronic unemployment
without cutting back on patient care or hospital supplies. "How
can I run a hospital in these conditions?" he asks rhetorically.
But he struggles on, despite financial problems, the daily
hassles, the constant threat of violence and what he calls
Israel's systematic attempt to destroy the Palestinian's civil

Originally intended as a hospice for Holy Land pilgrims when it
was built in the early 1900s by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II to
honor his wife, the Empress Augusta Victoria, the large, imposing
Jerusalem landmark has been a key LWF humanitarian project for
more than 50 years. But a recent Israeli district court decision
on payment of taxes has put its future in jeopardy. (See related
story at

(By Michael McAteer)

The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information service.
Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent
positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where
the dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the
material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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PO Box 2100, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
English Editor: Pauline Mumia
Tel: (41.22) 791.63.54
Fax: (41.22) 791.66.30

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