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Hospital With a Difference

by Carol Hunnybun
photos: CNEWA files


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Like a beacon, St. Joseph’s Hospital has been providing care and comfort amidst poverty and poor health conditions to East Jerusalem’s sick and needy. Built 28 years ago by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, the Hospital is modern, clean and devoid of a frightening and sterile atmosphere.

The Pontifical Mission for Palestine, sister organization of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association subsidizes parts of St. Joseph’s Hospital. Since 1961, endowed beds have been one part of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine’s involvement with the Hospital. There are no signs posted saying the beds are paid for, only the patients and hospital authorities are aware of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine’s charity.

St. Joseph’s was founded primarily for the care of the needy, and it has always been understood that the fees from wealthier patients would support the poor. With high inflation and consequent exorbitant costs of medications and materials, it has been necessary to seek support elsewhere. For example, six years ago, US Aid, through Catholic Relief Services and administered by the Pontifical Mission for Palestine donated $35,000 for a cardiac unit.

Patients of all ages and religions are treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital. In an 11-month period last year, 20 patients were cared for under the auspices of the Pontifical Mission. One patient, Majdia, a 25-year-old Moslem village woman owes her life to the doctors and staff of St. Joseph’s. A mother of a large family with a baby two weeks old, Majdia complained of abdominal pain, but had been too occupied with the baby and her household duties to take much notice. Her husband took her to another hospital where she was given analgesic tablets and sent home. When she did not get better, she came to St. Joseph’s where she underwent an operation for a gangrenous appendix. Admitted to the Hospital in critical condition, Majdia was allowed to return to her family after ten days of rest because of the exceptional care she received.

Mr. Ahmad, age 90, entered St. Joseph’s for a hernia and prostate operation. After his operation he was in a state of shock and developed a severe infection. With intensive care and treatment he was discharged in good health. A 65-year-old woman was hospitalized for anaemia and blood loss due to an ulcer. She will return for surgery.

Through the skill, devotion and concern of the doctors and nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the lives of these patients and countless others have been saved or relieved of pain. The staff, headed by Dr. Antoine Dibsy, a heart specialist trained in Paris and London fulfills the adage of a wise old Near Eastern Archbishop when he said “it is not enough to be devoted, one must also be efficient.”

In the crowded conditions of East Jerusalem, St. Joseph’s Hospital radiates hope and health to the needy, regardless of creed or race.

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A former administrator of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine office in Jerusalem, the author has retired to England after 20 years of service.



Tags: Jerusalem Health Care Poor/Poverty