Barriers to freedom of movement imposed by Israel are delaying and preventing Palestinian patients from accessing urgent treatment. Factors including checkpoints throughout the West Bank, and the Gaza blockade, hamper access to treatment for patients.
Patients traveling from the West Bank to East Jerusalem for treatment undergo a back-to-back ambulance transfer process, during which the ambulance is searched at the checkpoint, and patients are forced to wait as long as one hour before being moved to another ambulance and transferred to the hospital. According to Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) staff interviewed by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), the back-to-back process is very hard for patients in critical conditions, and sometimes they die while being transferred.
Palestinians seeking treatment at hospitals outside Gaza must obtain an exit permit from Israeli authorities. Patients must schedule appointments at hospitals prior to applying for a permit and applications can take up to 26 working days to process. In October 2017, 44 percent of 2,017 patient applications for permits to exit Gaza via the Israeli Erez checkpoint remained pending and, as a result, the patients lost their hospital appointments.
Furthermore, many patients are simply denied exit permits. As reported by WHO, of the 20,000 patient permit applications for crossing Erez in 2017, only around 11,000 were approved. According to Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, only 1,728 exits for medical patients and their companions were recorded in June 2017, compared to 2,923 exits in June 2016, making it the lowest number registered since 2014. This is due to the decrease in the number of referrals issued by the Palestinian Authority, and the low rates of approval by the Israeli authorities.
Restrictions on freedom of movement can delay as well as prevent access to treatment, thus violating the principle of non-interference of medical impartiality. It is unacceptable that patients must plan ahead and navigate a complicated system to be able to receive treatment.