St. Mary’s partners with Jerusalem Hospital to share and educate


In early May, members of St. Joseph’s Hospital in East Jerusalem met with senior staff at St. Mary’s General Hospital, Kitchener to exchange information and build on our partnership. Sister Gilberte Saliba, President, Mr. Jamil Koussa, General Director, Dr. Aziz Shoufani, Medical Director, and Mrs. Rima Awad, Nursing Director represented their hospital, and spent two days at St. Mary’s. This visit gave St. Mary’s the unique opportunity to provide guidance and answer questions from our counterparts from halfway around the world.

St. Mary’s former President and CEO, Bruce Antonello, and VP of Medical Affairs, Dr. Brian Kelly of St. Mary’s along with Brian Guest, Executive Director, Sister Anne Anderson, President and Chair, both of the St. Joseph’s Health System, and local Waterloo entrepreneur Shawky Fanhel, looked into providing relief to the hospital some years ago. Through a contact of Sr. Anderson’s, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem was identified as a facility that needed assistance. The aforementioned team had the opportunity to visit the hospital in 2000, located in East Jerusalem, and strike up a partnership that would allow for an exchange of information, education, and resources. Due to unrest in their homeland, it is only now that the team from Jerusalem was able to repay the visit.

“This visit is part of our on-going successful joint international ventures with hospitals, including Uganda, Haiti and Yemen, through St Joseph’s Health System, of which St. Mary’s is a part,” says Guest.

St. Joseph’s Hospital was founded by a French religious order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition in 1954. Because of political tension in the previous decade, Jerusalem was divided in 1948 into east and west. The sisters decided to build a hospital on the east (Palestinian) side to serve the people of that area. The only Catholic hospital in East Jerusalem, St. Joseph’s Mission, is to provide quality health care to the poor, regardless of age, sex, race or religion.

“It was an eye opening experience to see how well they were doing for a small hospital,” says Antonello of his visit. “It also made me appreciate what we have here in Canada.”

Surviving among political and religious upheaval, St. Joseph’s competes with five other hospitals in Jerusalem for limited funding, raising the majority of funds on their own. With 73 beds, they see approximately 5,000 patients a year, and 8,000 in outpatient clinics. St. Joseph’s focuses on providing neurology, respirology, urology, and orthopaedics, and offers cardiology, gynecology, and plastic surgery in clinics. They have three operating rooms, a 16 bed surgical department, 24 – hour lab services and CT, portable x-ray, and an ultrasound machine, that was donated by the St. Joseph’s Health System.

The hospital hopes to start an emergency department, with their own ambulance service, as the licensed ambulances cannot go into all the Arab areas of Jerusalem, leaving some patients without access. Among their major initiatives, St. Joseph’s plans to renovate their OR’s and sterilization room, start respiratory and ambulatory units, open a cath lab and establish a mother/child unit.

During their visit, the Jerusalem team conveyed they are getting the same financial support as the Islamic and Jewish hospitals in their region. The staff of 110 often performs more than one job (admitting, portering etc.) to save money. This kind of dedication of the employees to the hospital and its mission is what makes St. Joseph’s unique.

“Their visit to St. Mary’s enables us to see how passionate and committed our visitors are to their hospital. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic about helping,” says Antonello.

“We are a small hospital and we are looking to learn from St. Mary’s, and looking for co-operation in education. Also, we seek co-operation in developing various departments, such as a cath lab, and respiratory unit,” says Dr. Shoufani. “I am very optimistic about the co-operation between our hospitals and the St. Joseph’s Health System.”

“The essence of what they need is education regarding state-of-the-art protocols and systems. We at St. Mary’s have a great tradition as an educational provider and our staff have the attitude of wanting to help further health knowledge,” agrees Antonello. “Our recent experience in opening a cath lab, and respiratory (chest) unit fits nicely into the future goals of St. Joseph’s. We are in a great position to act as a mentor.”