Adalah petitions Israeli Supreme Court to reopen mother and child clinic shuttered by Health Ministry in Arab village

Closure will have devastating health implications for pregnant women, new mothers, babies, and children up to age six who now have no access to preventive medical care.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on 8 August 2017 demanding that the Israeli Health Ministry revoke its decision to shut down the mother-and-child health clinic in the Arab village of Khwaled in the north of the country.


The clinics, known in Hebrew as "Tipat Halav," provide preventive health care to pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children up to the age of six.


This branch of the government-run clinic has been serving almost the 1,500 residents of Khwaled and Ras Ali, located in the Galilee region east of Haifa, for some 20 years.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher wrote in the petition that the decision to close the clinic will have a severe impact on the health of women, children, and infants in Khwaled and Ras Ali:


"The Health Ministry decision leaves many women – particularly those from Ras Ali – without any solution and … will have devastating implications for pregnant women, new mothers, babies, and children up to age six in both villages."


Data from Ras Ali and Khwaled indicates a clear need for a health clinic accessible to residents: Almost 50 percent of Ras Ali children between ages six to 14 suffer from various learning disabilities (113 out of 225 children) and they need these services.


Adalah notes in the petition that, as a result of the closure, there will not be any clinic available to women and children from Ras Ali as the village is not served by public transportation.


The Supreme Court ordered the Health Ministry to respond to Adalah's petition by 10 September 2017.


Contrary to Health Ministry claims that mother-and-child health clinics remain open in the communities of Ibthan (Ibtin) and Kiryat Ata, these clinics remain inaccessible to most women from Ras Ali.


Adalah's petition includes an affidavit from a Ras Ali resident who testified that her infant son is now hospitalized in Haifa following their inability to access a mother-and-child clinic close to their home.


The woman, a petitioner, testified that the Ibthan clinic accepts only members of the Clalit health fund and that travel to Kiryat Ata is not an option:


"I am forced to walk 40 minutes to Khwaled and then to take a bus for an hour-and-a-half to get to the mother-and-child clinic in Kiryat Ata. This is impossible for me as I have five children and a baby who was recently born."


The Health Ministry is required by law to provide readily available and accessible preventive health services for mothers and newborns.


Attorney Zaher stressed in the petition that the closure of the clinic violates the constitutional right of village residents, Palestinian citizens of Israel, to health care. The Health Ministry is obliged to establish and operate clinics by legislation, and their closure is a violation of the National Health Law (1995).


CASE CITATION: HCJ 6362/17, Ikhals Sumrriah v. Ministry of Health (case pending)