Care and dignity for elders and the chronically ill a priority at Augusta Victoria Hospital

Badiah Bajali (left) and Amira Juha (right) of East Jerusalem's Augusta Victoria Hospital join CLWR executive director Robert Granke at our Winnipeg office earlier this week. CLWR/J.Clark

Badiah Bajali (left) and Amira Juha (right) of East Jerusalem’s Augusta Victoria Hospital join CLWR executive director Robert Granke at our Winnipeg office earlier this week. CLWR/J.Clark

“We want to give patients a place to die with dignity,” says Amira Juha, director of development projects and deputy chief finance officer at Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in East Jerusalem.

There is a huge need for elder and end-of-life care for Palestinians, but almost no facilities that offer it. A recent survey of Palestinians showed a growing senior population and 47 per cent of households reported that at least one person in their family suffered from a chronic illness or disability.

AVH and CLWR have been helping to address the need for long-term care in the region for several years now. In 2008, CLWR received a $610,000 grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that was used to create a Skilled Nursing and Long-Term Care Center at AVH, opening up 25 beds for use by elderly and chronically ill patients. The center is called the Canadian Wing in honour of that gift.

The plaque at AVH commemorating the support of CLWR and CIDA in the creation of the "Canadian Wing." Photo: CLWR

The plaque at AVH commemorating the support of CLWR and CIDA in the creation of the “Canadian Wing.” CLWR

The facility is a godsend for patients and their families.

It is stressful for families to care for chronically ill family members at home, says Amira. Their health care needs are usually beyond what can be practically provided by family members. Many Palestinian families struggle to earn enough money to support themselves and often cannot afford to have someone stay at home to provide constant care.

“Families are really happy with the service provided at AVH,” says Amira.

The Skilled Nursing and Long Term Care Center at AVH provides a caring environment for patients. Photo by M. Brown/LWF

The Skilled Nursing and Long Term Care Center at AVH provides a caring
environment for patients. M. Brown/LWF

They feel they can “connect better” with the staff here, says Badiah Bajali, head of the accounting department and deputy director of development projects at AVH.

Patients, families and staff all speak the same language. Some family members report feeling more comfortable having their relatives stay at AVH instead of an Israeli hospital.

But AVH isn’t stopping at 25 beds. The hospital is working to provide support to more patients.

They are planning the construction of an Elder Care and Palliative Medicine Pavilion that will open up 120 beds for patients requiring major, long-term care that can’t be provided in their homes. The patients would include stroke and cancer victims, those suffering from complications of diabetes and those requiring pain management. Twenty of the beds will be used as a nursing home for the elderly.

“We want the pavilion to be a healing, therapeutic environment,” says Amira.

All patients will have a private room where they can spend quality time with their families. The building will be environmentally friendly and will meet the needs of elderly patients with amenities like wheelchair accessible patios and gardens. A team of specialists will work together to provide medical and emotional support to patients through services including drug therapy, physical therapy and counseling.

Now just a grassy field on the side of a hill, this view shows the site on the LWF property where the Elder Care Pavilion will be built to house 120 patients for elder and palliative care. Photo by M. Brown/LWF

Now just a grassy field on the side of a hill, this view shows the site on the LWF property where the Elder Care Pavilion will
be built to house 120 patients for elder and palliative care. M. Brown/LWF

The pavilion will also be able to expand their reach to people from the West Bank. Currently, due to the travel restrictions Palestinians face, as well as available beds, the hospital’s Long Term Care Center only accepts Palestinian patients living in East Jerusalem.

“We’re thankful for the continued support that CLWR gives to the hospital,” says Amira. “We think of CLWR as one of our best partners.”

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