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Bethlehem's Holy Family hospital set to celebrate its 100,000th birth

Order of Malta runs maternity centre of excellence in the Palestinian Territories

(ANSA) - ROME, NOV 22 - The Order of Malta's Holy Family hospital in Bethlehem is set to celebrate its 100,000 birth.
    This achievement, including the birth of 4,646 babies over the last year, says a lot about the role this high-level centre has in the maternity field in the Palestinian Territories.
    What's more, as well as adding a new pavilion, the hospital is also aiming to multiply its direct-care activities in more remote areas via mobile medical units.
    "Our qualities of apolitical, absolute neutrality and long-standing capacity to offer care in the spirit of the Order's founders enable us to operate in difficult areas like the ones we are in at the moment and Ukraine," said Alessandro de Franciscis, Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta, during a meeting with the international press.
    The Knights of Malta is an sovereign entity of international law and a lay religious order of the Catholic Church which has bilateral diplomatic relations with over 110 countries and the European Union, as well as permanent UN observer status.
    It is a global institution that runs medical, social and humanitarian projects in over 120 nations.
    "The Holy Family hospital serves south Palestine in the governorates of Bethlehem and Hebron," explained the Grand Hospitaller, the Order's minister of health and international cooperation, as well as being a paediatrician.
    "It started out 35 years ago thanks to input from Pope John Paul II in a property belonging to nuns and built by the French.
    "Right from the start it seemed clear that its speciality had to be maternity, in part because of the symbolic value of it being not far from the Basilica of the Nativity.
    "Then gradually it expanded and over the years it developed a high degree of expertise in the treatment of newborns".
    The standards of care and the results achieved are comparable with those of Western European countries, hospital officials said during the media visit.
    One of its strong points is the 18-bed intensive-care unit that cares for children born after 25 weeks and who can remain for more than 90 days.
    Then there are three operating theatres for emergency Caesareans and the relative activities of surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and neonatologists.
    "Bethlehem has been facing a serious economic crisis since March 2020 which has been aggravated by the COVID pandemic," added de Franciscis.
    "And we have seen an increase in premature births, a phenomenon induced by the increase in poverty, stress and anxiety.
    "I want to stress that this does not just happen here but in all the areas affected by the same things".
    The hospital - which includes a pharmacy, a laboratory and a teaching-and-training centre for health personnel, directly or indirectly employs around 200 Palestinians, including 25 doctors (10 in-house), 53 midwives and 43 nurses.
    "But we want to do more," said the Grand Hospitaller, highlighting the need for international donations for this.
    A new structure is being built next to the old one, with the work costing five million dollars.
    The hospital's 'long arms' in the area are its mobile units, which each day serve isolated villages and remote Bedouin communities, made up prevalently of refugees, in the desert.
    Each mobile unit has a gynaecologist, a paediatrician and a nurse on board to be able to treat the needs of patents and their children.
    "We send our clinic into the communities that have the greatest barriers to access to medical care, because it is difficult and expensive to get to Bethlehem and there is the issue of security too," said Michele Burke Bowe, the Order's Ambassador to Palestine. (ANSA).


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