St John Eye Hospital Group

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The hospital building in its early years (circa 1890s)
The hospital's first annual report 1883
Panoramic view of the hospital and St Andrew's Church in 1930

The St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group is a charitable foundation which operates an ophthalmic hospital in Jerusalem and satellite eye care clinics in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is a wholly owned corporate subsidiary of the Venerable Order of St John. The Hospital Group is based in Jerusalem and is the main provider of eye care in the Palestinian territories. Patients receive care regardless of ethnicity, religion or ability to pay.

St John Ophthalmic Hospital[edit]

First site[edit]

The original St John Ophthalmic Hospital opened by The Order of St John in 1882 on the Bethlehem Road just south of the old city of Jerusalem. The decision to have this charitable enterprise be an eye hospital was made because eye disease was then, as it is now, widespread in the area and far-reaching in its consequences. Queen Victoria granted the hospital a Royal Charter.[1] Sir Edmund Lechmere, 3rd Baronet was one of the key figures in the establishment of the hospital. Lechmere and his wife were among the founders of Venerable Order of St John and had travelled several times to Jerusalem where they witnessed the need of its residents for eye care.[2]

During the First World War, the hospital was closed and its building was taken over by the Turkish Army, who used it to store ammunition. During the Battle of Jerusalem in 1917, the building was damaged. Following the establish of the British Mandate for Palestine, the architect Clifford Holliday was hired to renovate the building. Holliday‏ also designed a new wing and the nearby St Andrew's Church that were both opened in 1930. The new wing was situated across the street, on the opposite side of Hebron Road.

The Clifford Holliday wing was a two-story building built around an internal courtyard that was designed in an Eclectic Architectural style. The building was linked to the existing building across the street in a tunnel underneath Hebron Road; the tunnel was also used as a location for cold storage of medications. Most notable in the building is the Armenian room, which was designed by the Armenian ceramics artist David Ohannessian. In the 1960s, after the hospital moved to its current location, the Clifford Holliday‏ wing became an arts and crafts center (known as The Jerusalem House of Quality).[3]

In the 1970s, the original hospital building was sold to a developer who wanted to demolish it and build a hotel in its place. Following a campaign by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the developer was barred from demolishing the building; instead he was permitted to build an extension to it, in keeping with the original style of the building, and to renovate and preserve the original structure. The hotel was opened in the 1980s and was named the Mt. Zion Hotel.[1]

Second site[edit]

Stone of the memorial in Muristan Street in the old city of Jerusalem, marking the location of the second site of the hospital (1949–1960)

Following the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and Jordan, the valley just below the hospital building and Mount Zion were a designated as no-man's land. The hospital could not operate in this location anymore, since it became a Front line dividing both sides. Additionally, access to the building was cut off from what became East Jerusalem.

Between 1949 and 1960 the hospital operated from two houses owned by the Order in Muristan Street in the old city of Jerusalem, and where a commemorative inscription can be read to this day.

Third site[edit]

The hospital's present building was opened in 1960 at Nashashibi Street in Sheikh Jarrah.

The Hospital Group today[edit]

The St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group is today the only charitable provider of eye care in Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where rates of blindness are ten times higher[citation needed] than in the West.

In the latter years of the 20th century, the Group opened satellite centres taking expert eye care to the people of Gaza, Hebron and Anabta and - importantly in the region - operate Mobile Outreach Clinics taking vital services to those unable to travel easily.

The main Jerusalem Hospital is a fully equipped, ISO accredited, general eye hospital. It has a 49-bed capacity and is staffed by both foreign and local specialist surgeons, doctors, paramedics, overseas medical volunteers and nurses. There is a large, modern Outpatients Department and specialist retinal, corneal and pediatric services. The hospital also has a research unit.[4]

The hospital has two operating theaters, with the most modern equipment that could be provided, giving a 24-hour emergency service where all kinds of major eye surgery are performed.

Treatment is not always easy because of the restrictions on employment and general movement of both staff and patients in the region.

Despite the difficulties, the hospital saw and treated 45,238 patients at Jerusalem Hospital alone in 2012.

The hospital attracts a substantial number of volunteer doctors from around the world who not only help care for the patients but also help in the teaching and training of the local doctors.[5]

Training local doctors and nurses is an essential objective of the group. In training local people, it invests in the region and helps to rebuild the fractured infrastructure.

The group counts both Jewish and Muslim individuals and institutions amongst its supporters. It treats patients regardless of ethnicity, religion or ability to pay.

References[edit]

Coordinates: 31°46′39″N 35°13′47″E / 31.77750°N 35.22972°E / 31.77750; 35.22972

External links[edit]