Rome 9 January 2023 – The 100,000th child has been born at the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, a little boy named Muhamad. The staff had been waiting many days for this important moment, which took place on the morning of 6 January 2023. 100,000 infants represent half of the population of Bethlehem.
The maternity facility run by the Order of Malta since 1990 – specialized in at-risk pregnancies and complicated births – offers it services to southern Palestine, including the Bethlehem and Hebron governorates. With its 18-bed neonatal intensive care unit, it is the only hospital in the region for delivering and treating preterm babies. Like all the Order of Malta’s activities, the hospital is open to everyone without distinction of belief or condition. All services are provided at reduced cost or completely free of charge.
Whilst the Covid pandemic has been a worldwide health crisis, in Bethlehem it has become an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Bethlehem’s workforce is dependent 90% on tourism and pilgrimages. The closure of this sector in March 2020 meant many people were without pay, with the stress causing health complications. The economic recovery is very slow and it is estimated that it has only returned to 15% of 2019 levels. Pregnant women are malnourished and babies are born smaller and with greater complications. Poor nutrition increases the possibility of birth defects and the need for neonatal intensive care.
The hospital directly or indirectly employs 191 Palestinians. Since it is a university hospital, staff training and updating is continuous. There are 25 doctors, including 10 interns, 53 midwives, 43 nurses and 4 technicians. The hospital has a laboratory and a pharmacy operating 24 hours a day. It also serves as a training facility for midwives, nurses and paramedical staff. Last year it trained over 200 nurses and midwives.
The hospital gives priority to the neediest. It employs two social workers for the psychosocial needs of patients and families and helps patients pay the costs. The services of the mobile clinic are provided free of charge, as are the first visits to the Well Women Clinic.
Refugees represent 45% of patients, as well as 21% of hospital staff. 71% of the staff are women.
The hospital is currently engaged in an expansion and renovation project involving the replacement of two operating theatres and the addition of a convalescence department, accommodation for overnight stays for resident doctors, classrooms for teaching staff and medical professionals and a waiting room with cafeteria for visitors and patients.
Twenty-three years ago, on his historic visit to the Holy Land, Pope John Paul II preached from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth declaring the Holy Family Hospital a priority of the Church for the new millennium. The Order of Malta continues to keep its promise to St. John Paul II, ensuring that the hospital remains a beacon of hope for all those seeking care and work.