Horrors in a hospital

Patients often have to lie on the floor at Nasser Medical Complex in southern Gaza. 

Haitham Imad EFE via ZUMA Press

The situation at Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, is horrifying. I work as a doctor here and have never seen anything like it.

None of us has.

When patients arrive at the emergency room, we have to treat them on the floor. These include people injured in Israeli attacks, as well as those requiring urgent attention for other reasons.

It is unimaginable that we have to treat people on the floor. But there simply isn’t the space to do otherwise.

Before the war, we had 12 beds available in the intensive care unit (ICU). After the war was declared, we increased that number to 40.

Even so, they have quickly been filled with surgical cases. There is no space for medical patients with more regular conditions.

Many people are now dying of treatable medical concerns – sepsis, cardiac arrests and strokes – because we simply don’t have sufficient capacity. Basic hygiene is a real concern and its absence is contributing to infection and the spread of disease.

ICU surgical patients are also dying. The intensity of what we are seeing means we have to discharge ICU patients before they get the full treatment they need.

If you survive, you are among the lucky ones.

Other medical conditions – like acute gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infections and scabies – are exploding around us. Children and older patients with severe diseases are at risk of severe discomfort, pain and even death due to the lack of medication and the frequent delays in medical intervention.

Older patients with conditions such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension are unable to take daily medication due to a shortage of basic drugs.

They can arrive in the hospital with severe complications. Many have died, even though their cases were under control before 7 October.

Worms in wounds

Vaccination programs organized by Gaza’s health ministry and by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) have been stalled for weeks. That makes it more likely that we will be hit by diseases we had long been able to prevent in Gaza.

Many patients really need to be seen by specialists outside Gaza. Yet, according to the health ministry, only about 1 percent of our patients have been taken for treatment outside Gaza.

Patients arriving here from now dysfunctional hospitals in the north – a condition we are fast spiraling towards in Khan Younis – are frequently in such a dreadful shape that we are seeing some with worms in their wounds.

The situation is appalling. And none of it is the result of neglect.

Our medical teams are working flat out.

The situation has been caused by Israel, which has targeted hospitals and humanitarian aid efforts. The world – particularly the US – has allowed this to occur.

Nasser Medical Complex isn’t only overcrowded on the inside, but on the outside too.

The numbers of displaced people who have been staying in the vicinity – hoping to have a modicum of protection given the hospital’s status as a supposedly safe area – has started to decrease this week. The Israeli occupation forces have ordered people staying in the area around the hospital to leave.

Deadly Israeli attacks on the hospital and its environs have served to increase the pace of departure.

As Khan Younis empties, our job will become more dangerous. Accessing the hospital will get increasingly difficult for both our medical teams and for patients.


Medical workers at the hospital – myself included – are exhausted. We have been working under intolerable conditions for more than 80 days.

All of us have family and friends we care about deeply.

When news breaks of a massacre, we try to find out who the victims are. When injured people arrive at the hospital, we search to see if we know any of them.

Colleagues are sometimes shocked when they realize that the people they are treating are from their own families.

Every day we hear the air strikes and other explosions around us getting closer and closer. Members of my own family are now fleeing Khan Younis refugee camp for tents on the beach in the middle of winter.

After being under siege for more than 15 years, we have descended into a human-made catastrophe with no end in sight.

Our grandparents’ stories of being forced to leave their homes by Zionist forces in 1948 is now our lived reality.

No one knows if they will end up on a beach in Khan Younis, a refugee camp in Egypt or in a more distant country. Israeli representatives such as Benjamin Netanyahyu and Danny Danon are talking up “voluntary migration” – a euphemism for ethnic cleansing.

No one knows anything but death and horror as the Israeli military drops American-made bombs on refugee camps from the north of Gaza to the very south.

Israel is shooting fish in an increasingly small barrel as much of the world wrings its hands and looks away. Or – in the case of the US – prepares to send Israel more weapons.

The author of this article, who requested anonymity, works in Nasser Medical Complex, southern Gaza.