Hospitals overcrowded, doctors overworked

Al-Awda hospital lacks essential medical supplies. 

Abubaker Abed

The Middle Area in Gaza is among the most densely populated parts of Palestine.

Before Israel declared its latest war, the area had a few hundred thousand residents. After Israel ordered a mass evacuation from the northern half of Gaza, the Middle Area started to burst at the seams.

The area hosts four main refugee camps: Deir al-Balah, Maghazi, Nuseirat and al-Bureij.

Despite its large population, the area has only two hospitals: al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah and al-Awda hospital in Nuseirat.

Dr. Eyad al-Jabri, the director at al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital, is trying to provide vital medical treatment under inhuman conditions.

”The number of beds at the entire hospital is only 177,” he said. “There are now more than 600 with severe injuries at the hospital. Most of them are treated on the floor. Unfortunately, it is getting worse and worse.”

As well as caring for patients, the hospital has become a shelter for displaced people.

By al-Jabri’s estimates, it hosts at least 5,000 people from the northern half of Gaza. It has come under further pressure because many residents of the Khan Younis region in the south have been told to evacuate by the Israeli military.

Dr. Khalid Abu Habel, an emergency doctor at al-Aqsa martyrs hospital, noted that because of overcrowding, organizing patients into different categories cannot be done in the way it generally would.

“We are not only receiving people with war injuries,” he said. “But we have many cases of lung diseases, gastroenteritis, sinus problems, inflammations and diarrhea.”

“This causes a huge chaos,” he added. “We cannot cope with such a large number of cases.”

“Massive tragedy”

Al-Awda hospital is overcrowded, too.

“We need at least six times the number of the beds we have at the hospital,” said Dr. Refaat al-Majdlawi from its administration. “And with the arrival of patients from north Gaza, we desperately need more, especially in the intensive care unit.”

There is an acute shortage, he added, of fuel, surgical equipment and other medical supplies such as oxygen cylinders.

“Hospitals are protected places during wars, according to all the laws of the world,” he said. “Israel has breached all the laws and attacked many hospitals in Gaza, particularly [the largest hospital] al-Shifa.”

Dr. Ibrahim Mattar is a cardiologist at al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital.

“The number of wounded people inside the hospital is unbelievable,” he said.

“Most of them lie on the floor and we are not able to care for them properly. We even do ECGs [electrocardiograms] on the floor. Patients are dying slowly. Even people with chronic diseases have run out of their medicines and can’t find any more in pharmacies. This is a massive tragedy.”

With the huge workload of the hospital’s staff, deciding which cases to prioritize presents major difficulties.

“We sometimes have people with chronic diseases that come to the hospital with injuries [from the war],” he said. “They require special treatment. If they are not killed from their wounds, they will be killed from their diseases.”

Abubaker Abed is a journalist and translator from Deir al-Balah refugee camp in Gaza.