In Gaza, hospitals work without light or anesthesia | ET REALITY


Every day there is a choice between who lives and who dies.

In the Gaza Strip’s dilapidated hospitals, which are on the brink of collapse without electricity or basic supplies, medical and nursing professionals say they must now decide which patients receive ventilators, who are resuscitated or who receive any medical treatment. Health workers make quick decisions amid cries from young children who must undergo brain operations and amputation procedures without anesthesia or clean water to wash their wounds.

As entire blocks of apartments, schools and hospitals crumble under Israeli bombing that has caused devastating civilian casualties, some wartime medical veterans say conditions in the overcrowded and impoverished territory of Gaza are the worst they have ever seen. have seen.

“Our teams are physically and psychologically exhausted,” said Basem al Najjar, deputy director of al-Aqsa hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah.

“Some doctors stay in the hospital for a whole week and sometimes some members of their families are brought to the hospital dead or injured. Other doctors return home and are killed there” and then their bodies are returned to the hospital, he said. He also claimed that three hospital staff had died in their homes, due to Israeli military bombing.

Israel has bombed Gaza for weeks in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that rules the territory. The attack killed nearly 1,400 people inside Israel.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said Sunday that more than 9,700 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and nearly 25,000 were injured. It is a figure that increases daily and it is believed that some of the victims are still buried under the rubble.

The assault that Israel imposed on the territory after the October 7 attack has also created crippling shortages of fuel, food, water, medicine and other basic goods. There is no electricity in most of Gaza after Israel cut supplies and the main power plant ran out of fuel almost four weeks ago. Israel is delaying fuel deliveries and excessively limiting the entry of humanitarian aid into the territory.

Doctors say they are having a hard time keeping their patients alive with the few supplies they have. Nearly half of Gaza’s hospitals have closed completely due to damage from airstrikes and severe fuel shortages, while those that remain open provide minimal care at best, doctors say. doctors.

The lack of fresh water and iodine supplies makes it impossible to clean the wounds, which in some cases have maggots chewing on the patients’ charred and torn flesh, according to interviews with doctors at four Gaza hospitals. Without adequate water, doctors and nurses cannot provide the sanitation their patients need, nor can they wash wounds or hospital sheets.

In some hospitals, when people arrive in cardiac arrest they are not resuscitated because the medical staff prefers to work with patients who have a better chance of surviving. Few critically injured people get a hospital bed. And even fewer receive a ventilator or anesthesia during surgery, even for brain surgeries, doctors said. Doctors say anesthesia has been in short supply for about two weeks.

On top of all those difficulties, hospitals have also become temporary orphanages, according to health workers.

In some cases, children have arrived at hospitals after their families died in the war, others watched their parents die on stretchers or lying on tile floors. The personal doctor has cared for some of the children until a family member comes to pick them up.

Najjar said every day at his hospital begins with a fight to preserve scarce fuel supplies. That difficulty is shared by the other 19 hospitals in Gaza that are still operating at various levels.

And the pressure on those hospitals is increasing as they balance the shortage of 16 other hospitals that are now out of service, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health published on November 2.

On November 3, an explosion near the entrance to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City hit a convoy of ambulances carrying wounded people preparing to evacuate to Egypt, according to a Hamas spokesman and Mohammad Abu Salmiya, director of the hospital. Thirteen people died and many others were injured, according to Abu Salmiya, who explained that among the injured were paramedics and evacuated patients, while the hospital suffered damage from the explosion.

Two other hospitals were attacked that day, according to the World Health Organization.

The Israeli military said it had carried out an airstrike against an ambulance “used by a Hamas terrorist cell.” An Israeli military spokesman, Mayor Nir Dinar, confirmed that it was the same attack that caused the explosion outside the hospital.

Doctors at two Gaza hospitals said that due to a lack of electricity, air conditioners are not working, so the heat has increased so much that it is causing patients’ wounds to ooze. The personal doctor needs the scarce fuel reserves to light the operating rooms.

At the Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza, surgeries are performed with the flashlight of a cell phone, according to a doctor there. Vinegar is sometimes used to disinfect wounds because there is no iodine.

The Gaza Strip has been plunged into darkness and cut off from the world after the territory’s only power plant ran out of fuel and the Israeli army cut off telecommunications. Ambulance drivers say they often have to chase the sounds of air raids to know where they are needed.

With the current food shortage in Gaza, members of the medical staff say they only come once a day, if the hospital can give them food, and sleep in the hallways alongside thousands of displaced people who have sought refuge in Gaza’s medical wards. the entire Gaza Strip.

“We are making difficult decisions,” says Mohammed Qandil, a specialist in emergency and intensive care medicine at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza city.

“We choose who receives ventilation by deciding who has the best chance of surviving,” he said. “For us, as a team, these are not easy decisions. “It is a morally delicate issue that involves a lot of guilt.”

He paused, reflecting on growing international calls for Israel to accept a ceasefire that would allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“We have to make these decisions, but we don’t think it’s our fault,” Qandil said. “We believe it is the fault of all humanity, which is unable to provide us with safe and continuous medical help.”

Then he got suspicious.

“We can’t save all the people who come here,” he said while taking stock of the lives he saw extinguished, many of which, according to him, could have been saved before the current conflict.

“The doors of the hospital are open, but the care we can give… is insignificant.”

Hiba Yazbek Yazbek collaborated with reporting.

María Abi-Habib is an investigative correspondent based in Mexico City and covers Latin America. She has previously reported from Afghanistan, throughout the Middle East and India, where she covered South Asia. More from Maria Abi-Habib

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