Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) is a grassroots, community-based Palestinian health organization. PMRS was founded in 1979 by a group of concerned Palestinian doctors and health professionals seeking to supplement the decayed and inadequate health infrastructure caused by years of Israeli military occupation. It is non-profit, voluntary, and one of the most active health NGOs in Palestine. PMRS national health programs emphasize prevention, education, community participation, and the empowerment of people.
PMRS follows the principles and practices of Primary Health Care in our provision of preventive, curative and promotive health services. Therefore, participation and involvement of local communities, as well as values of voluntarism are core values and cornerstones of each of our programs. Our staff of physicians and community health workers focus on health education, screening, awareness raising, and training as central components of quality health service provision. It is our belief that health is the entry point for community development and involves itself in all aspects of community development, especially by working with young people and by supporting community institutions. Ultimately, we seek to mobilize communities to take responsibility for their own development and empower individuals to take control over their own overall health. This holistic approach to health and development has allowed PMRS to improve the lives of Palestinians. We see ourselves as an instrument of change, and building a free democratic modern Palestinian society.
Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) is a grassroots, community-based Palestinian health organization. PMRS was founded in 1979 by a group of concerned Palestinian doctors and health professionals seeking to supplement the decayed and inadequate health infrastructure caused by years of Israeli military occupation. It is non-profit, voluntary, and one of the most active health NGOs in Palestine.
PMRS seeks to improve the overall physical, mental, and social well-being of all Palestinians, regardless of racial, political, social, economic or religious status. Our comprehensive health programs focus on the needs of the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society: women, children, and the poor in rural villages, refugee camps, and urban centers. We pursue our mission of Quality Health for All in over 400 communities throughout Palestine. Our permanent health care facilities include community health centers in towns and villages throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and specialized centers including physiotherapy centers, an optometry center, youth and community centers and medical equipment loan centers. At these locations and in mobile clinics throughout the country we conduct comprehensive Primary Health Care programs including women's health, child health, community-based rehabilitation, school health, and specialty services. Our dedicated and professional staff includes physicians, community health workers, nurses, midwives, and other health professionals, many of whom volunteer their services. Our staff and many of their colleagues at other NGOs and in the Ministry of Health receive first-rate training in the practice of community-based Primary Health Care at our School of Community Health.
PMRS designs and delivers health services, and conducted monitoring and evaluations of its programs and services. These programs include:
- Primary Health Care Centers
- Community Based Rehab
- Children‘s Health
- Central Pharmacy
- Health Education
- Psychosocial and Counseling
- Volunteering Program
- Women‘s Health
- Youth Program
- Mobile Clinic
PRIMARY HEALTH CARE CENTERS (PCH) PROGRAM
In line with the PMRS goal of providing quality health services to the most needy social groups, PMRS runs 26 PHC centers in the West bank and Gaza Strip. Most of these clinics are located in rural or marginalized areas. These PHC centers offer services in general medicine, child health, management of chronic disease, emergency care, and provision of medications. 23 of these centers provide women’s health services, 9 provide dental and oral heath services, and 19 are equipped with laboratories.
Specialized services such as dermatology, ENT and internal medicine are also available. Provision of essential drugs, nursing services, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, and cooperation with local communities are also vital activities within the centers (see individual reports). These centers follow the principles and practices of Primary Health Care in the provision of preventative, curative and promotive health services aiming at:
• Promoting a public policy oriented towards health
• Creating supportive environments
• Strengthening community action
• Developing personal skills
• Adjusting and adapting health services according to the needs of the community
Our dedicated and professional staff includes physicians, laboratory technicians, nurses and community health workers, midwifes, and volunteers. Most of them are residents in the communities in which the PHC centers are located.
Working together with youth, women, families and other active community members, PHC centers act as a launch pad for different health and social activities and programs, such as women‘s health program, child health program, school health program, and CBR program. All of the programs adopt a broad view to health with its close link to the comprehensive social development
Through the combination of clinical services and community activities, PMRS’s PHC centers have become modern health structures that incorporate and promote low-cost high-quality PHC services.The newest Primary Health Care center at Sabastya
PHC Role During Intifada:
Since the start of the Intifada for Independence, PMRS’s PHC Centers faced an unprecedented challenge in sustaining the existing primary health care services and in effectively responding to enormous and ever-expanding community needs.
Besides the injuries, deaths and economic losses of the emergency situation, many people, particularly those living in rural villages, were unable to reach urban areas and thus have become increasingly dependent on the local health centers operated by PMRS. PMRS’s PHC centers in both villages and towns faced tremendous pressures to respond to the people’s increasing need for assistance, posing a challenge to PMRS’s resources. Increased community need grew from the fact that the imposition of blockades around towns and villages prevents Palestinian families from accessing health facilities.
Further, the targeting of medical personnel and the restricting of their movement prevented medical teams from reaching the sick, the wounded and vulnerable sectors of society. As a result of economic losses many underprivileged Palestinians, especially those in rural villages, are finding it difficult to pay even for basic health services. Moreover, many outlying communities have been cut off from health care service in towns as Palestinian freedom of movement is severely restricted. PMRS has a long history of overcoming these challenges to regular and affordable provision of basic services.
Increased # of Beneficiaries:
PHC centers have been able to further develop their services in spite of the obstacles and difficulties that have been facing the regular health development activities for the fifth year consecutively due to the political situation, particularly closures imposed on all areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and restrictions on the mobility of citizens and medical teams.
Preventative and Promotive Outreach Activities:
The program’s outreach activities increase the capacity of PHC centers to continue providing various outreach services such as school health, home visits and mobile clinics to a greater number of beneficiaries. As such, community outreach, education and the involvement of local communities are cornerstones of each of our programs. Health Education has always been a vital component of all PMRS programs for comprehensive health. Promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging behavior that prevents disease and injury is a central principle of PHC, and PMRS has been a leader in promoting health education in Palestinian communities. In many locations served by PMRS, Palestinians still face many of the health risks prevalent in developing societies.
Quality control became a central issue for PMRS in 2005. An interdisciplinary committee was established and its activities were mainstreamed within all the programs. In spite of being a nascent endeavor, the committee introduced novel concepts and approaches in quality management.
Innovative models were constructed to measure the needs and the satisfaction of beneficiaries and providers. New strategies were designed for updating the Essential Drug List used by PMRS. Tremendous efforts were also exerted to update the protocols and ensure that the activities are conforming to standard guidelines and evidence based procedures.
Partnerships and cooperation:
Partnership with MoH continued in 7 PMRS health centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Turmus‘aya, Sinjel, Mughayer, Aboud, Dyuk and Maythaloun in the West Bank and Um an-Nasr in Gaza),, demonstrating a model of positive professional cooperation in service provision and avoiding duplication of services. Moreover, partnership relations continued with Caritas, Evangelical Hospital, local councils and other local societies and organizations in seven clinics including Aboud, Zababdeh, Sinjel, Beit Dukko, Deir Ghassaneh, Sabastia and Al Nassariah. This cooperation and partnership exist as part of empowering local communities and supporting health service provision in these centers.
PMRS continued to restructure and equip 12 of its clinics to deliver services that promote child health through a supportive environment for children and their families. Computerized filing system for data entry in child health was introduced to all clinics.
Integration of NCDs at Primary health care clinics:
State-of-the-art concepts and practices acquired and implemented by the Chronic Disease Center of PMRS were integrated within the primary health care centers of PMRS. Primary health care centers of other organizations such as the UNRWA, UHWC, and the MOH also benefited from this process. As a result of this networking among the various health organizations on the issue of NCDs was enhanced.
PMRS believes that a modern, well-supported primary healthcare system should make quality specialized services available at the community level. Which contributes to the reduction of the referrals to the secondary level of healthcare, primary specialized services ensure continuity of care and greatly increase the range of services available to people in their own communities. The importance of these services was proved in view of the closure and siege imposed on Palestinian villages and towns and lack of access to specialized services that are often located in central cities. Along with other specialized services, PMRS makes quality Dental Care, Ophthalmic and Dermatological services available to its beneficiaries in rural and poor areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hands, These services provided at low cost than private sector, leads to supporting people in the currents economic crisis patients suffers from.
Dental Care Program:
As one of the first specialized programs introduced to PMRS services. The aim of the dental and oral Health is to providing quality dental and oral health service for people, whose usually do not pay attention for there oral health, because of decrease the awareness of the importance of oral health and the high cost of the service. Dental and oral health dentist provide preventive, curative and restorative services (bridges, permanent and removable dentures).
In addition, the program participates in school health activities by providing dental screening and dental health education in schools and kindergartens throughout the West Bank an Gaza Strip.
Aiming at filling the acute gap in the availability of dermatologists in the north and south of the West Bank, mainly in rural areas. The Dermatology Program continues to be the most structured specialized service, providing quality care in 16 health centres. The program is unique in the country in that it looks to provide the service and enhance the ability of general practitioners for the management of common skin diseases.
Two dermatologists routinely work at PMRS‘ primary health centres and join mobile clinic teams to bring specialized services to many Palestinian communities, throw the permanent health centers, the number of beneficiaries reached 6,353 cases.
Additionally, the Dermatology Program is supplementing the initiative of PMRS‘ Women’s Health Program to increase awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, among health professionals and the general public. At the same time, the program continued to organize national annual dermatological conferences in the area, in cooperation with the Medical Association.
Dr. Mustafa Kamel Barghouthi is a medical doctor; a member of the Palestinian parliament; former Minister of Information under the 2007 National Unity Government; 2005 presidential candidate; Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative; social, political, human rights and peace activist; one of the most active leaders in Palestine; campaigner for the development of Palestinian civil society and grassroots democracy; outspoken advocate of internal reform; international spokesperson for the Palestinian cause; leading figure in the non-violent, peaceful struggle against the Occupation; and organizer of international solidarity presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Mustafa Barghouthi has made an extraordinary contribution to initiatives to peacefully challenge the ongoing Israeli Occupation and bring it to end, as well as efforts to build the institutional framework of Palestinian civil society and promote the principles of internal democracy and good governance. He writes extensively for local and international audiences on civil society, democracy issues and the political situation in Palestine, as well as on health development policy. Dr. Barghouthi has been nominated for Nobel Prize for Peace 2010.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, President of PMRS & HDIP at a non-violent rally. Ramallah. February 2002. Photo credit: Amineh Ayyad
Dr. Barghouthi was born in Jerusalem in 1954 to a Palestinian family from Deir Ghassaneh village in the Ramallah District. As a medical doctor trained in the former Soviet Union, with post-graduate training in Jerusalem and an MSc in business administration and management from Stanford University, Dr. Barghouthi has been a key actor in the introduction of modern concepts and models of health care in Palestine. From 1978 till 1988, he worked at the Maqassed hospital in Jerusalem as a Resident Physician in the Department of Neurosurgery, and in the Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Coronary Care Unit, and finally as Chief Physician of the hospital’s Primary Healthcare Clinics.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Marwaan Barthought and members of the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People (GIPP) participate at a non-violent rally in Ramallah. February 2002. Photo credit: Amineh Ayyad
In 1979, Dr. Barghouthi was among the founders of a voluntary, non-governmental and non-profit medical relief movement, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), of which he was later elected President. The aim of the PMRS at the time of its inception was to provide Palestinians, particularly marginalized and vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and those living in rural, isolated areas with essential emergency and primary healthcare services. Since its foundation, the PMRS has evolved into one of the largest providers of primary healthcare services throughout the Palestinian Territory, with a staff consisting of 380 health professionals and 38,000 volunteers. It currently works in 495 Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps, providing emergency, preventive and curative primary healthcare, specialised care, and a range of other services to 1.3 million Palestinians each year. The PMRS has pioneered the development of healthcare models such as the Community-Based Rehabilitation programme, aimed at providing rehabilitation services to disabled persons and at facilitating their integration into their communities. The PMRS has also been at the forefront of efforts to target the most vulnerable sectors of Palestinian society, through its Women’s and Child Health services.
After serving as President of the PMRS for 25 years, Dr. Barghouthi resigned his post in 2004 to pursue political activities. He retained a seat on the Board of Directors of PMRS, and currently, he is once again the President of PMRS.
At the height of the first Intifada in 1989, Dr. Barghouthi was also one of a group of Palestinian health practitioners and researchers that co-founded the Health, Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP), of which he is now Director. HDIP is a policy think-tank and a leader in the field of health and public policy research. In addition to its other functions, HDIP houses the Palestine Monitor, an information clearing house, on behalf of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), a cluster of 95 Palestinian NGO’s. The Palestine Monitor was launched at the beginning of the current Intifada (“uprising”) in order to convey unified responses from Palestinian civil society about local developments and to provide objective and accurate information to the press and international community. Its website acts as one of the key information sources on the conflict, with more than 1.5 million hits per month.
Following the US veto on 27 March 2001 of a UNSC resolution calling for the deployment of an international protection force for civilians in the Occupied Territory, Dr. Barghouthi and other members of PNGO worked to mobilise international protection for the Palestinians at the grassroots level instead. As such, Dr. Barghouthi, along with 700 local and international organisations, helped found the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People (GIPP), a program that aims to protect Palestinian civilians through the presence of international civilians by deterring Israeli army and settler aggression.
Dr. Barghouthi has been at the forefront of initiatives promoting non-violent resistance as the most effective means of overcoming the Israeli Occupation. He is consistently present at grassroots, non-violent resistance initiatives against the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall for example. Dr. Barghouthi is also one of the leading exponents of the campaign for economic and political divestment from Israel and its associated institutions. In addition, he serves as an Associate of the Oxford Research Group, a programme dedicated to developing effective methods for positive change on security issues through non-violent means.
With a long history of involvement in the Palestinian political sphere, Dr. Barghouthi was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991. He was also a member of the Steering Committee to the Multilateral Peace Negotiations from 1991-93. In this capacity, he drafted the Palestinian NGO law and participated in lobbying efforts to have it passed by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). In 1996, he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council but was obliged to relinquish his seat to a Christian candidate under the quota system.
In 2002, Dr. Barghouthi co-founded Al Mubadara (the Palestinian National Initiative), along with Dr. Edward Said, Dr. Haider Abdel-Shafi and Mr. Ibrahim Dakak, and currently serves as its Secretary General. Al Mubadara is a democratic opposition movement that seeks to build a reformist, inclusive alternative to both entrenched factions that form part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and to Islamic groups such as Hamas. It looks to achieve this by promoting an accountable and transparent democratic system in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and by strengthening contacts between Palestinians in the Territories and those in the Diaspora. It also seeks to develop mass non-violence and international solidarity as the preferred means of resisting the Israeli Occupation, and to mobilize public opinion by making the Palestinian story visible in the news media through outlets such as the Palestine Monitor.
Dr. Barghouthi ran in the Presidential Elections of January 2005 as an Al Mubadara candidate, on an anti-corruption and pro-democracy platform. He achieved second place behind Mahmoud Abbas, with 20 percent of total votes.
A solidarity olive harvest with PMRS staff and their families, and volunteers. October 2008. Photo credit: Amineh Ayyad
Recently, Dr. Barghouthi also headed the “Independent Palestine” coalition that ran in Legislative elections in January 2006, in which he and fellow candidate, Rawia Al-Shawa, both secured seats in the new Palestinian parliament. The coalition consists of independents, business leaders, academics, writers, women, youth, labour movements, and Al Mubadara, and draws upon widespread grassroots support. Its platform seeks to provide a truly democratic and independent alternative to the large majority of silent and unrepresented Palestinian voters, who favour neither the autocracy and corruption of the governing Fatah party, nor the fundamentalism of Hamas.