Palestinian health care workers visit Scotland as part of educational link-up

Delegation met with Minister for International Development Humza Yousaf at Scottish Parliament on Tuesday

NURSES and psychologists from Bethlehem in Palestine are on a week-long visit to Scotland as part of a strengthening of an educational link-up.

Glasgow District Council, Glasgow and Clyde Health Board and Glasgow Psychological Services have teamed up to organise the trip which is being funded by Glasgow City Council and humanitarian charity Spirit Aid.

The delegation of health workers from Bethlehem took part in a civic welcoming reception at the Glasgow Lord Provost's office on Friday.

Bethlehem, located in the Israeli occupied West Bank, has been twinned with Glasgow since 2007. During Israel's assault on Gaza last summer, Glasgow City Council flew the Palestinian flag for a day in a mark of solidarity, following a request from the mayor of Bethlehem.

The delegation's reception at the city chambers was followed by a visit to the Scottish Parliament where the group met with Minister for International Development Humza Yousaf MSP and Jackie Baillie MSP and discussed the challenges involved in the provision of health care in Palestine.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to help, in some small way, to improve medical services for the people of that beleaguered country." David Hayman

Director of Spirit Aid, actor David Hayman, said that he was "delighted" to be involved in the partnership to make the visit happen.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to help, in some small way, to improve medical services for the people of that beleaguered country and strengthen the ties between the people of Glasgow and the people of Bethlehem, our twin city," said Hayman.

Mariam Awad, dean of nursing at Bethlehem University, said that the effects of being under occupation mean that support from international colleagues is vital.

"The restrictions imposed on us by the occupation makes it essential that we develop links with sympathetic colleagues outside Palestine on cancer nurse education and psychological services," said Awad.

"We are so grateful to all agencies in Glasgow who have helped to enable us to develop training and education that will make a real impact on the lives of patients in Palestine who have with cancer and those with psychological challenges.

"The restrictions imposed on us by the occupation makes it essential that we develop links with sympathetic colleagues outside Palestine." Mariam Awad, Bethlehem University

"We look forward to the future with optimism and hope to develop even closer links with our Glasgow colleagues in the future."

One of the organisers of the link-up, oncology nurse specialist Gerry O'Hare said that he was inspired to help support cancer care in Palestine following a trip to the West Bank in 2011.

"On a visit to Bethlehem I was interested to find out how the occupation of Palestine impacted on cancer care," said O'Hare.

He continued: "Mariam explained how the occupation impacted on patients access to cancer drugs, radiotherapy and hospitals, as well the difficulties for health workers travelling to Palestinian hospitals due to Israeli checkpoints.

"I was compelled to do what I could to help and have been working with Mariam to develop cancer education in Palestine." Gerry O'Hare, Glasgow and Clyde oncology nurse

"I was compelled to do what I could to help and have been working with Mariam to develop cancer education in Palestine and to facilitate a visit of cancer nurses to Glasgow for clinical placement."

Similiarly, Fergal Docherty, a principal educational psychologist in Glasgow, said that following a visit to psychological services in Bethlehem he decided to promote the development of clinical training and educational exchange between the two cities.

The organisers of the Palestinian delegation hope the visit will lead to the clinical placement of health workers from Palestine to cancer and psychological services in Glasgow and Clyde.

In addition, the group are exploring further opportunities for educational collaborations between health workers in the two cities.

Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament