Injured Gazans Untreated Due to Ambulance Shortage

Palestinian Health Ministry says 22 ambulances have been damaged by Israeli fire, 19 medical personnel killed while on the job and another 83 have been injured.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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An ambulance destroyed by an Israeli strike in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, July 20, 2014.Credit: AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Hospitals in East Jerusalem and the West Bank have been unable to receive injured patients from the Gaza Strip due to a severe shortage of ambulances. The Red Crescent in the West Bank could send some 20 ambulances to pick up injured Gazans from the Erez border crossing, but has not yet received permission from Israel to do so.

The number of Palestinians injured during the war is close to 10,000, including about 2,500 children. Only around 100 have been allowed to pass through the Erez crossing into Israel. The problem is not exit permits, but rather the low number of ambulances in Gaza, particularly those permitted to transport injured individuals through the crossing. So says attorney Iyad Alami from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which has recently been acting as liaison between Gaza hospitals and those in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The ambulance shortage has also made it difficult to transfer especially difficult cases to Jordan.

The Red Crescent in East Jerusalem has only seven ambulances (as determined by the Israeli Health Ministry), five of which have been designated for transferring injured patients from Gaza. Each one has room for only one patient. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza stated two days ago that 50 individuals are in urgent need of transfer out of the Gaza Strip. As of Monday afternoon, 16 patients were waiting at the crossing to leave Gaza; eight of them require transfer by ambulance, while the other eight could be transferred by car or taxi.

Following a request made by MK Basel Ghattas (Balad), Health Minister Yael German allowed the Red Crescent in Jerusalem to purchase an additional five ambulances, which should arrive in two or three days. The Red Crescent in the West Bank could also spare 20 of its 80 ambulances to be used for injured patients from Gaza.

MK Ghattas, however, approached the Civil Administration on Sunday with a request to allow these ambulances to leave the West Bank. Ghattas told Haaretz that the Civil Administration answered him by saying that the permission requires approval from “high-ranking officials.”

Inquiries made by Haaretz to the Civil Administration spokesperson on this issue have yet to be answered.

According to attorney Alami, the problem is not only transporting patients from the border, but also getting them from Gazan hospitals to the border. The ambulances and paramedics in the Gaza Strip have not been able to deal with the hundreds and sometimes thousands of Gazans injured every day.

Many patients’ conditions have worsened because they were not given immediate care, and an unknown number of them have bled to death.

On days when there was no humanitarian cease-fire, transporting patients to the border crossings has been an arduous affair requiring extensive coordination due to heavy fire on the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The ambulance shortage and the heavy shelling have also disrupted the transport of Gaza residents who regularly travel to Israeli hospitals for treatment of various illnesses.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 22 ambulances have been damaged by Israeli fire, 19 medical personnel killed while on the job and another 83 injured. Also, 10 hospitals in Gaza have been closed due to nearby shelling, or due to their location in the “buffer zone” created by Israel three kilometers from the Gaza-Israel border.

Another 17 hospitals and medical centers have been damaged by shelling, seven of them were hit directly, and another 44 have been closed.

Closing hospitals and clinics only increases the crowding at the other hospitals, where medical staff has been forced to treat patients and perform procedures on the floors of the hallway.

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