An ambulance a minute, 1,300 people shot in a day: Gaza’s Shifa Hospital faces crises that would swamp the world’s best hospitals | AMIRA HASS
(May 28) – Any healthcare system in the West would collapse if it had to treat as many gunshot wounds in a single day as there were in the Gaza Strip on May 14, say international medical figures. Yet Gaza’s medical system, which for years has been on the brink of collapse as a result of the Israeli blockade and Palestinian internecine conflict, coped amazingly well with the challenge. In Israel, the events of May 14 are already history. In the Strip, their bloody consequences will shape the lives of thousands of families for years to come.
It was the number of people injured by gunfire, more than the high body count, that was so shocking: Nearly half of the more than 2,770 people who sought emergency care had gunshot wounds. “It was clear that the soldiers are shooting above all in order to injure and maim demonstrators.” That was the conclusion I heard from my interlocutors, some well experienced in bloody international conflicts. The aim was to hurt rather than to kill, to leave as many young people as possible with permanent disabilities.
The preparations at the 10 triage and trauma stabilization stations were impressive. Each of the stations erected near the protest sites was staffed by paramedics and volunteer medical students. Within six minutes, on average, they managed to examine each patient, to determine the type of injury, to stabilize the patient and decide who needed to be treated in a hospital. Beginning at around noon, one ambulance arrived at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital every minute. The sirens didn’t stop wailing. Each ambulance carried four or five people with injuries.
Twelve operating rooms worked nonstop. The first to be treated were people with injuries to blood vessels. Hundreds of people with less critical injuries waited in the hospital corridors for their turn, groaning and dizzy. The only pain relievers available were meant for bad headaches at most, not gunshot wounds. Even if the Health Ministry of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank had not reduced its medicine shipments to the Gaza Strip in the past year, following directives from top Palestinian political echelons, it’s doubtful that the hospital would have had the painkillers and anesthetics needed to treat the 1,300 or so patients with gunshot wounds and carry out the hundreds of operations performed on May 14.
No hospital in the world has enough vascular and orthopedic surgeons to operate on hundreds of gunshot victims in a single day. Surgeons from other specialties were brought in to operate under the guidance of the specialists. No hospital has enough medical teams to care for so many patients. After 1:30 P.M., when the families of the injured began streaming into the already overcrowded hospital, things began to fall apart. An armed security detail from the Hamas-controled Interior Ministry was called in to impose order, and remained there until 8:30 P.M. At night, 70 injured demonstrators still awaited treatment, and another 40 waited the next morning. One week on, the time for orthopedic surgery and physical therapy rehabilitation has arrived, but the Strip lacks sufficient physiotherapists, orthopedic surgeons and medical equipment.
From March 30 to May 22, a total of 13,190 people, including 1,136 children, were injured in the demonstrations along the border with Israel, according to a World Health Organization report issued May 22. Of these, 3,360 were injured by live ammunition fired by our heroic – and well-protected – soldiers; 332 are still in critical condition (two people died of their injuries over the weekend). Five upper-limb amputations and 27 lower-limb amputations were performed. In the week of May 13-20 alone, Israeli soldiers injured 3,414 Gazans. Of these, 2,013 were treated in hospitals and in clinics operated by nongovernmental organizations, including 271 children and 127 women; 1,366 had gunshot wounds.
Our brave soldiers also shoot at medical teams that approach the fence to rescue casualties. Orders are orders, even when it means firing at paramedics. As a result, the medics work in teams of six: If one is wounded, two others will carry him away for treatment and the three who remain will continue to work, praying that they won’t be hit themselves.
Gaza health crisis: Doctors struggle to treat hundreds of wounded amid shortage of beds, medicine ■ ‘We die anyway, so let it be in front of the cameras’: Conversations with Gazans ■ Gaza doctors: Israeli fire at border protests causing wounds not seen since 2014 war
On May 14, a paramedic from the Palestinian Civil Defense was killed, shot on the way to rescuing an injured protester. For around 20 minutes, his colleagues tried to reach him but failed, deterred by the heavy gunfire. The paramedic died of lung collapse. In the week of May 13-20, an additional 24 medical personnel were injured — eight by live ammunition, six by bullet shrapnel, one by a tear gas grenade and nine by exposure to tear gas. Twelve ambulances were damaged. Between March 30 and May 20, a total of 238 medical personnel were injured and 38 ambulances were damaged.
On May 23, following a visit to a hospital and a rehabilitation center in Gaza, UN Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl highlighted the ramifications of the recent events: “I truly believe that much of the world completely underestimates the extent of the disaster in human terms that occurred in the Gaza Strip since the marches began on March 30. … As many people or even slightly more were injured during a total of seven days of protests than were injured during the full duration of the 2014 conflict. That is truly staggering. During the visits, I was also struck not only by the number of injured but also by the nature of the injuries. … The pattern of small entry wounds and large exit wounds indicates ammunition used caused severe damage to internal organs, muscle tissue and bones. Both the staff of the Gazan Ministry of Health hospitals, NGOs and UNRWA clinics are struggling to deal with extremely complex wounds and care.”
Source: Haaretz newspaper, Israel
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UPDATE: Gaza health crisis
From: Dr. Ghada Al Jadba <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, May 24, 2018 at 6:51 AM
Subject: Update: Gaza Health Crisis
Emergency call for support: Gaza is facing a human and health-care disaster of epic proportions.
*Stand with Palestine refugees
*”Dehumanizing an entire community will bring no peace to the region” – *Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General
My name is Dr. Ghada Al Jadba, I am the Chief of Health Programme in Gaza.
I want to update you on the unfolding health crisis occurring in Gaza. For the past few months, my staff has treated many of those wounded as a result of the marches.
Since the marches in Gaza began:
– 117 people were shot dead including 13 children, of which 7 were UNRWA students
– 13,000 people were injured
– Live ammunition was used on 3,500 people
– Victims were systematically shot in their lower limbs, abdomen, back or head.
The medical teams in Gaza have been heroic in saving lives. Despite their efforts, many of survivors will live with life-long disabilities.
To date, UNRWA clinics have provided follow-up care to 1,600 patients released early to make room in overcrowded hospitals.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl has sent out an emergency call to save Gaza’s overburdened health system. He urges support for health care to patients who carry long-lasting physical and emotional scars from the violence.
As we prepare our clinics for an upsurge in patients, I am asking you for your support. In this time of crisis, help us provide essential health services in Gaza.
Your contribution will be remembered.
In solidarity and with gratitude,
Dr. Ghada Al Jadba
Chief of Health Programme
Gaza Field Office, UNRWA
P.S. My colleague Adnan Abu Hasna, from Gaza, was recently interviewed on U.S. National Public Radio. It is a powerful story, please take the time to listen: https://www.npr.org/2018/05/20/612747653/how-does-it-feel-to-be-a-palestinian-growing-up-in-gaza
*Our mailing address is:
Bayader Wadi Seer
PO Box 140157, Amman 11814
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Roughly 2 million Palestinians living inside of Gaza are confined to a strip of land that stretches 25 miles long and anywhere from 3 to 7 miles wide. People are unable to travel outside of the territory, either into Israel or into Egypt, making it difficult for anyone who wishes to start a life elsewhere. To give us an idea of what it is to grow up in Gaza and to be there now, we’re joined by Adnan Abu Hasna. Welcome to the program.
ADNAN ABU HASNA: Thanks.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You’re in Gaza City right now, Adnan. Can you give us an idea of how Palestinians are feeling after this very difficult few weeks?
HASNA: Yes. People actually here are very angry. They are very disappointed also. They did not expect that 62 people were killed and nearly 2,500 people injured – some hundreds of them were severely injured. It’s adding, you know, more suffering in the Gaza Strip that no electricity is coming only for hours – the undrinkable water. So besides that, you know, the psychological pressure here. And people actually didn’t know what to do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to ask you – we saw from the protests last week that many of those who were there were young people. And you’ve just described these conditions – no electricity, water, no jobs. How are people feeling – the younger generation?
HASNA: There’s no tomorrow in Gaza, you know? People who are under 30 – you talk about the young generation – you know, more than 90 per cent of them – they’re not working. They’re jobless. It’s very dangerous, especially in this generation, in that age (unintelligible) that are citizens of this war. But actually, in fact, they are not. And because of that, they feel hopeless. And with all respect to all political reasons, you know, I can say that what is going on in Gaza – it’s not only politics, but it’s also about life, about dreams, about circumstances.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I was told you have two children who don’t live with you in Gaza. Can you tell me where they are and when you saw them last?
HASNA: Yes, I have two kids outside Gaza, one of them in Spain and the other in Algiers (ph). And I did not see them for four years. One of them – just today, he called from Spain. And he heard about the Rafah terminal – that it will be open for, you know, one month…
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Rafah terminal is the border post between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
HASNA: …And Gaza Strip, yes. He called me, asking me that, you know, that he’d love to come because of Ramadan month. You know, I told him, look. OK, you can come, but there’s no guarantee that you will get out of Gaza forever. There is no guarantee. Who can guarantee that? If they close the terminal, you know, tomorrow morning and, you know, stay for one month or two month, he will lose his job. And the same for my son in Algiers. He’s an engineer there. And they said no, we will not come.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: For people who don’t understand, the Rafah terminal opens and closes infrequently. You never know exactly when it’s going to be opened and closed. And you don’t know who will be granted permission to leave or to come in, right? So that makes it very difficult.
HASNA: Yes, it’s very difficult for people. And so if you decide to come to Gaza – OK? – it means that you enter the jail.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is Ramadan. I’d like to say happy Ramadan to you. But this is also, you know, a time of prayer and fasting. How are people feeling this Ramadan?
HASNA: I think it is the most difficult Ramadan month that Gaza ever saw, you know, because of lack of everything, actually. And also, we noticed that it’s not like, you know, the years before – that the churches that used to distribute food and iftar during Ramadan you cannot find nowadays in Gaza because of so many things. So I think that it’s one of the most difficult months that Gaza ever survived before.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Adnan Abu Hasna is a representative with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine. Thank you very much.