AL Shifaa Hospital in Gaza: Not a Place for Dying

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Al Shifaa Hospital is one of the largest health centers in Gaza. It works round the clock to face an escalating situation on the ground, as a result of the Israeli attacks. It is faced by logistical and financial challenges; coupled with a relentless effort by medical teams, the police, and the community and hospital workers to provide medical services under dire circumstances.
As the death toll rises and the number of civilian casualties continue to increase, medical teams continue to provide the best care they can for their patients. Dr. Ashraf al Qidrah, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, explains: “despite their low salaries and their concern for their own lives; medical teams continue to provide services to all people of Gaza.
The tragic situation in the strip overshadows the doctors themselves. According to Dr. Qidrah: “ Dr. Majdi Naeim who was handling emergencies back in November 2012, when Israel was attacking Gaza; found himself handling the body of his own dead child Abed al Rahman”.
Israeli attacks eradicate families by the dozens and cause hundreds of severe causalities. Al Qidrah explains:” Medical staff has to deal with molten or mutilated bodies and second and third degree burns. All this affects their psychological wellbeing and increase their ability to handle stress”.
He adds: “the health sector is in serious need for medicine and consumables; especially those that are for emergencies and intensive care. 30% of the basic medicine is not available and 55% of the medical consumables are non-existent. Moreover, the lack of fuel for electricity generation results in our disability to respond to emergencies. Many times, we face the situation of being unable to dispatch an ambulance. Add to this that the hospital can become a target at any minute”.
At the moment, there are no solutions to the lack of medicine, fuel and medical consumables. According to Dr. al Qidrah: “there is no real support, we hear many promises in the media. But in reality nothing materializes. Nevertheless, we are determined to fulfill our duty until the last breath. This is national and ethical obligation. Yet, we demand that the government be accountable to all Palestinians without discrimination. Salaries should be paid to doctors, nurses and technicians.”
He concludes by asking: “if the National Reconciliation government will not play that role in this crisis; then who will?”
In the meantime, the policemen reside in a small room at al Shifaa to guard the building and help civilians.
Ayman al Batniji; the police spokesperson; explained: “we provide assistance to civilians. We have had a considerable experience during the past Israeli attacks both in the streets and within organizations. Currently we provide our services to 121 economic, financial, political and diplomatic organization in Gaza.”
He added that police officers facilitate the entrance of cases to the hospital and prevent “suspicious individuals” from using the facility. “Some individuals come to identify the dead or the injured and they are not next of kin. So we prohibit them from doing that.”
“We cannot leave the hospital or else it will be overcrowded out of panic. Our duty is to organize the use of the service in such a way so as to address emergencies.”
Security forces and police have not received their salaries from the government. According to Batinaji: We should be serving the people and we will not neglect our duties due to financial reasons.”
Scouts volunteer at al Shifaa too. Bilat al Halimi, a lead scout describes their work: “we transport those who are injured in civilian cars to the emergency room, by carrying individual in a proper way and providing first aid”.
The hospital cleaning staff shares the sense of duty with everybody else. Nabil abu Aqlain, the cleaning supervisor stresses the importance of his staff work and their ability to maintain the cleanliness of the hospital, in addition to carrying out all errands requested by the medical staff. He points out that he hasn’t got his salary for the past four months.
This is a glimpse of the situation at al Shifaa Hospital. One of many health facilities that face the harsh conditions in Gaza.

by  Nabil Sunonu

Translated by Lamia Raei
Via Falsteen Newspaper

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