Gaza hospitals overburdened by increasing number of injured, shortage of supplies amid Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Published May 17, 2021, 6:29 AM

by Xinhua

GAZA, May 16 (Xinhua) — The ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have left dozens of people dead and more than 1,000 others injured, leaving the government-run hospitals in the Palestinian enclave overburdened due to the sudden rise of patients.

Palestinian children, who were wounded in overnight Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, receive treatment at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital on May 16, 2021. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

Hospitals there are operating under a state of emergency, amid a severe shortage of capabilities and supplies due to the tight Israeli blockade that has been in place for nearly 15 years.

In western Gaza city, the Shifa Medical Complex, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, is constantly busy as ambulances and private cars keep bringing in the Palestinian injured by the Israeli attacks.

Marwan Abu Saada, director of the Shifa hospital for surgery, said the complex receives more than 50 percent of the Palestinian victims of the Israeli attacks.

“The vast majority of those wounded in the Israeli attacks suffer from serious complications due to the explosions caused by missile shrapnel inside the body,” he told Xinhua.

Abu Saada added that such injuries cause severe bleeding and tissue laceration, which require complex surgical interventions.

He pointed out that more than 25 percent of the injured cases are children, and a number of them underwent amputations due to the severity of their injuries.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip since Monday reached 188, including 55 children and 33 women, in addition to more than 1,000 injuries.

Over the past six days, the armed conflict between Israel and the Hamas-led militant groups has kept escalating, marking the fiercest fighting between the two sides since 2014.

The ongoing conflict showed the extent of the burdens that the Palestinian doctors and paramedics have endure, as they have been working around the clock to save peoples’ lives.

“Doctors and nurses face very difficult conditions…they work for long hours, which eats up hospital’s capacity,” Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman of the Health Ministry in Gaza, told Xinhua.

He added that the military escalation increased pressure on the health system, which was already exhausted by the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic as well as the tight Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.

He warned that hospitals suffer from a significant shortage of capabilities, medicines and medical supplies, adding that hospitals’ warehouses have run out of 256 types of drugs.

“The health system in Gaza is near collapse due to the ongoing Israeli escalation,” al-Qedra said.

Iyad Abu Zahir, director-general of the health ministry’s ambulance and emergency department, said that the number of injured Palestinians is rapidly climbing.

“We recorded 65 injuries during the first day of the attacks…more than 950 people were injured until this morning,” Abu Zahir told reporters in Gaza.

He warned that the medical system in the Gaza Strip will not be able to provide adequate health services as the number of the injured keeps increasing.

As conflict broke out last week, Israel shut down the Erez Crossing, the only pedestrian passage between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which impedes the transfer of injured to hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The Health Ministry in Gaza complained about the repeated Israeli attacks on hospitals, primary care clinics, and ambulances, in addition to the prolonged blackouts.

Yousef Abu al-Reesh, undersecretary of the Gaza health ministry, told Xinhua that the Israeli army intends to bomb the main roads in the Gaza Strip to prevent medical staff from rescuing the victims injured during the clashes with Israel.

“The health situation is horrible in the coastal enclave, especially it has been suffering from the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Ahmed al-Naji, a surgeon at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis city, told Xinhua.

Al-Naji could not leave the hospital since the start of the fighting between the Palestinian armed militants in Gaza and the Israeli army.

The 42-year-old father of four told Xinhua that all hospitals and medical centers have declared a state of emergency in a bid to provide treatment for the wounded people.

“Unfortunately, we (doctors) have been challenging the most dangerous period, not only because of the ongoing military tension, but also because of the spread of the novel coronavirus,” the doctor said.

Ahead of the start of the fighting on Monday, the health sector has already been suffering from the lack of medical staff, medicines, as well as equipment to treat the COVID-19 patients.

On potential danger is the possible of resurgence in COVID-19 infections in Gaza, as many people refuse to obey anti-coronavirus measures.

Even though the current conflict ends, “we will challenge the most dangerous wave of the virus spreading among people, especially as they react with each other without wearing the medical facemasks,” Al-Naji warned.