Hospitals in Gaza on verge of total shutdown as doctor describes nightmare conditions
Hospitals in Gaza are on the verge of total shutdown as more have come under intense bombardment today, Islamic Relief is warning.
Almost two-thirds of all hospitals in Gaza are now completely out of action and the rest are struggling to keep functioning while civilian casualties continue to rise. Today’s escalated attacks on hospitals have gravely endangered medical staff and civilians and caused casualties and significant damage. Islamic Relief believes that hospitals must never be a target.
Today’s attacks add to the enormous pressure on the few remaining hospitals in Gaza. A doctor* from Al Shifa Hospital, interviewed by Islamic Relief before today’s bombing, has described horrific conditions, with staff digging mass graves for unidentified bodies, corridors filled with thousands of displaced people, and patients bombed as they try to evacuate. The recent bombing at the hospital, where Islamic Relief has distributed medicine and medical supplies, has severely damaged x-ray and obstetric departments and hit the hospital yard where tens of thousands of displaced people have sought refuge.
The doctor warned of disease outbreaks inside hospitals due to overcrowding and lack of water and fuel. Patients who have undergone surgery are getting infected due to unhygienic conditions and lack of equipment, as the Israeli siege continues to starve hospitals of essential supplies.
The doctor at Al Shifa told Islamic Relief staff:
“We are overrun with injured people and are four times over capacity. Each minute we are receiving huge numbers of injured people. Even in the operating theatre, we have huge numbers of people who have had surgery but we have no other place to put them. We can’t cope, we don’t have space.
“We are overwhelmed with displaced people as well as patients. In this hospital, we have more than 55,000 displaced people, occupying every square meter, in every department, and in the corridors and the parking space. I’m worried about disease outbreaks – we’re seeing infections and a lot of diarrhoeal disease and skin diseases like scabies and lice.
“We dug mass graves for a lot of unknown displaced people (who have been killed). If nobody recognises them we have to bury them in a mass grave. In this hospital, we’ve buried about 200 people like this.
“We haven’t received any fuel. Patients will die if we don’t have fuel for the ICU, neonatal, and operating theatres. We have 400 patients on dialysis here – if we don’t provide people with dialysis they will die.
“We are exhausted and working to the maximum, but we are not able to provide people with a good quality of care. We lack the essential drugs and medicine and anesthetic drugs to treat patients. A lot of the wounded people have maggots in their wounds. The conditions here are disastrous.”
Israel has ordered all hospitals that remain open in northern Gaza to evacuate patients, but the doctor says that they have come under attack while attempting to leave: “We need to evacuate many patients. We succeeded in evacuating some patients but (for others) we didn’t succeed as the Israeli army attacked them. It was not safe to transport any patients from the hospital to other places.”
Other hospitals that remain open are similarly at risk. Doctors at al-Rantisi children’s hospital say they are now surrounded by military tanks, while doctors at Al Awda hospital, the only provider of maternity services in northern Gaza, say they are on the verge of shutting down. Al Quds hospital in Gaza City has had to shut down the surgical ward, oxygen generation plant and MRI ward due to the lack of fuel.
Islamic Relief continues to call for an urgent ceasefire and protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Humanitarian aid must be allowed into Gaza, including essential fuel. The ongoing Israeli siege means that only around 1 days’ worth of aid has been able to enter Gaza in almost three weeks. Since 21 October, when the first aid convoy was permitted through the Rafah crossing, 650 trucks have entered Gaza carrying aid such as food, medicine and bottled water – but this is just a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed, as even before this escalation Gaza relied on an average of 500 trucks entering a day. Israel continues to ban fuel from being included in these limited humanitarian convoys, forcing hospitals to shut down essential services.
Islamic Relief’s Gaza crisis response has so far provided aid including almost 2.3 million medical items to hospitals, including Al Shifa, as well as food to thousands of people in shelters, water for more than 15,500 people and hygiene and dignity items for more than 8,000 people.
*We have withheld the doctor’s name given the security situation.
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