The Palestinian ministry of health is the primary provider of healthcare services in the occupied Palestinian territories, providing 60 percent of health services and a majority of public health programs. It is aided by nongovernmental organizations and the private sector in meeting vital health needs.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the second largest health service provider, offers registered Palestinian refugees free health services, including immunizations, health education and psychological support services. The majority of UNRWA’s centers are located in refugee camps.
After Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Palestinian non-governmental organizations became important healthcare providers, maintaining prominence after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. These organizations offer the same range of services provided by the ministry, apart from immunizations. Additionally, they provide health education, rehabilitation, psychosocial support, outreach programs and emergency care.
Private sector involvement in the health system has evolved considerably since 1994. Clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, laboratories and rehabilitation centers, and medical equipment manufacturers were born out of the developing Palestinian economy and donor funding. A growing Palestinian pharmaceutical industry presently produces approximately 700 different products, in 2008 meeting half of the domestic demand for prescription drugs.
FINANCING & FACILITIES
The health ministry in 2008 had 416 primary healthcare clinics and 22 hospitals with 2,815 beds in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Non-governmental organizations run 265 clinics and 31 hospitals with 1,565 beds. UNRWA follows as the third most prevalent provider with 53 clinics and one hospital with 63 beds. The private sector provides an additional 466 beds in 23 hospitals.
Per capita health expenditures in 2003 were estimated at $138, about 13 percent of the GDP. This was lower than Jordan ($163) and Lebanon ($510) but higher than Egypt ($66).
The public health sector is funded by a combination of revenue from taxation, health insurance, co-payments and other governmental revenues via the ministry of finance, as well as international donors. Personal up-front payments add to the revenue. It was estimated that, between 2003 and 2004, 18 percent of funding came from the Palestinian Authority, 43 percent from direct payments and 39 percent from external donors. Dependence on donor funding to meet emerging healthcare demands has been a consistent cause for concern.
The number of healthcare personnel in the occupied territories was estimated at 20,796 in 2005, with the ministry leading as the major employer. Combined salaries are estimated at $73 million, which constitutes 52 percent of the total ministry expenditure.