Backgrounder for Holy Family Hospital
Holy Family Hospital is the premier maternity hospital and newborn critical care center in the Bethlehem region, neighboring towns and villages, four United Nations refugee camps, and Bedouin encampments in the Judean Desert. Holy Family Hospital is the only obstetrical/gynecological facility in the region which can handle the complicated medical problems of women and babies living in extreme poverty and under the political strife which plagues the birthplace of the Prince of Peace.
The hospital began in 1895 as a large general hospital operated by the French Daughters of Charity. Insufficient funding forced the hospital to close in 1985. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, responding to acute need in the region, reopened one wing as a maternity unit in 1990.
In twenty years of operation, Holy Family Hospital has grown from 28 beds and fewer than 1,000 births annually to 60 beds and more than 3,200 annual births. Its outpatient clinics treat 22,000 women a year—a six fold increase since 1990. The hospital’s mobile clinic dispenses weekly prenatal care to over 200 poor women in hillside pockets of poverty where there is no sanitation, electricity, or clean running water. To meet the demands, the hospital budget has grown from under $1 million to $3.6 million annually—about half of which is met by donations from members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other generous donors from around the world.
On Oct. 28, 2010, Holy Family Hospital reached a significant milestone with the birth of Aisha Radaydiah – the 50,000th baby born at the Birthplace of Hope since 1990.
The Holy Family Hospital works to raise its standard of care and to meet acute needs in a place where the mortality rate of mothers and newborns is five times what it is in the West. The hospital offers the only long-term hospitalization for high risk pregnancy. Its neonatal intensive care unit—the only one in the region—annually saves the lives of 400 premature, low-birth-weight infants. The hospital’s Western-trained medical staff and state-of-the-art equipment offer mammography, laparoscopic surgery, and Echo Doppler diagnosis not found anywhere else in the region.
Since the West Bank has no institutions for advanced medical education, Holy Family Hospital instituted a program of continuing medical education in 1995. Relationships with major medical centers in the West, such as the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, Hospital Saint Vincent DePaul in Paris, and the University of Liege in Belgium, allow for the training of resident doctors, nurses, and midwives from Holy Family Hospital in those institutions and brings their renowned medical professionals to the hospital as visiting professors to teach and to assess medical and administrative practice. As many as 100 medical professionals from around the region attend these teaching sessions. Recently the Palestinian Medical Council named Holy Family Hospital the training center for doctors in the specialty of neonatology. For all its efforts, the hospital has been recognized by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in London and the European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Holy Family Hospital is governed by an international board composed of members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from five national associations. His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, named Holy Family Hospital one of his top priority projects for the new millennium.