Gaza Hospitals Struggle to Cope With Wounded

With wards filled beyond capacity and a never-ending stream of injured people, Palestinian Health Ministry in the Strip warns of danger of uncontrolled infections, post-surgical complications.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Patients, who medics said were injured by an explosion during an overnight Israeli assault, are treated in Shifa hospital in Gaza City July 18, 2014.
Patients, who medics said were injured by an explosion during an overnight Israeli assault, are treated in Shifa hospital in Gaza City July 18, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The steadily increasing number of wounded Palestinians in the Gaza Strip means there’s no space in hospital operating rooms, with surgery sometimes being performed in corridors. On Wednesday alone 780 Palestinians were reportedly wounded as a result of Israeli military operations in the Strip. There are not enough hospital beds and surgeons sometimes operate on patients lying on stretchers on the floor, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. Due to lack of space on internal medicine and other wards at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, post-op patients are sometimes sent to the obstetrics ward or transferred to other hospitals. Around 30 patients have not been discharged simply because there homes have been flattened and they have nowhere to go; those 30 beds are desperately needed by other injured people.

The wards are full to capacity and patients are lying on mattresses in the corridors. The situation is so bad, according to a statement from the ministry, that some patients are sleeping two to a bed, while others are being prematurely discharged.

In many cases the hospital staff, burdened with caring for dozens of new injured people arriving every few hours, cannot keep up with documenting patients’ condition in real time or phases of care and some of the medical information has to be noted down afterward.

The ministry warns that these conditions are a recipe for further disaster, in the form of infections that cannot be controlled and fatal post-surgery complications. There have already been cases of patients who died because lifesaving treatment came too late. The ministry says hospital staff levels would have to be doubled in order to care for all the injured, and as a result patients are not getting the care they need.

Almost 8,000 Palestinians have been injured in the Gaza Strip since the war began, more than three weeks ago. As of Wednesday evening the largest number of injured, 2,475 people, were in the northern area of the Strip. An additional 2,055 were from the Gaza City District.

More than 60 percent of government medical workers who were hired by the Hamas government have not been paid for several months, yet they continue to put in 24-hours-on, 24-hours-off shifts, together with hospital doctors and nurses who are receiving their salaries.

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