Uncertainty is the new normal here in America as we encounter the realities of COVID-19.
But it's important to remember that families and organizations are fighting their own battles abroad, as well. The pandemic found its way into Jerusalem and the Holy Land—changing everything—on March 5, 2020. All tourists were evacuated, save a small group under quarantine; the checkpoints were closed, allowing no exits or entries. Every restaurant, hotel, bank, and school closed for a stated of emergency, furloughing all employees without pay.
All the holy sites, places of worship, and tourist attractions were closed. Today, it is estimated that a mere 10% of the workforce is receiving salaries.
Pregnancies don’t stop for pandemics, of course, and the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem remains open and committed to caring for the most vulnerable mothers and babies of the region.
Yes, the number of staff is diminished due to the number of employees who must stay home to take care of their children. A few staff members are quarantined due to their recent travel.
One of the operating rooms has been recommissioned as an isolation ward for infected patients. The infection control measures have stepped up in alignment with Palestinian Health Ministry protocols.
The remaining staff are working longer hours and ensuring that the doors of the Hospital are open to all without regard to need or creed. The Hospital remains a cheerful and welcoming place, dedicated to the highest standards of care.
COVID-19 has quickly devastated the local economy. This, in turn, greatly impacts the Hospital and Foundation.
Given the already-fragile economy in Bethlehem, the prospects of several weeks or more without salaries are unimaginable. The current 50% subsidy for all Hospital services which has allowed the families of Bethlehem to access care at the Hospital will no longer suffice. The social workers who work closely with poorer families to determine sliding scale payments are already encountering families who don’t have enough money for food, let alone medical care. The risk that women might deliver their babies at home—to avoid hospital fees—is growing.
Holy Family Hospital Foundation is committed to meeting the healthcare needs of the families of Bethlehem. 75% of the households who come to the hospital earn less than $800 per month, so patients without salaries will be given fees that amount to almost nothing.
This generosity, of course, means that the Hospital will need to find ways to cut even more expenses and look for additional revenue. The Foundation will redouble its efforts to find new private and institutional donors to ensure that the mothers of Bethlehem can deliver their babies in a safe, clean hospital—as well as ensure that any premature and sick newborns have a good chance of survival.
Lent is an important time for almsgiving—but this Easter, faced as we are with unprecedented challenges, will also be an important time to give alms. Consider giving an offering to the Holy Family Hospital to lighten its burden and bring hope to the doctors, nurses, and patients.
Most importantly, please keep the Hospital, its staff, and the families of the Holy Land in your prayers—and include the intention of the Foundation's fundraising success throughout 2020.