Services cut to the bone at Rafah hospital

Shahinaz al-Attar is among 700 patients receiving dialysis in a greatly overstretched hospital. 

Fedaa al-Qedra

It took nine hours before Shahinaz al-Attar began her dialysis session.

She had left the tent where she is staying in Rafah, southern Gaza, at 8 am. After arriving at Abu Yousef al-Najjar, a hospital in the city, she had to sit in an uncomfortable chair.

And wait.

Shahinaz, 27, was uprooted from Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza during the early stages of the current war. She first went to al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital but had to evacuate when Israel attacked.

Israel’s violence was so extreme that the hospital could no longer function.

Following the attack on al-Shifa, Shahinaz moved to a school run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in the southern city of Khan Younis.

She was able to receive dialysis in Nasser Medical Complex initially. That hospital – also located in Khan Younis – was later besieged by Israel’s forces, with catastrophic effects for its patients.

As a result, Shahinaz is now having treatment for her kidney complaint in Rafah.

“Before the war, I used to have dialysis three times a week,” she said. “Each session would last for four hours. When we were displaced to al-Shifa hospital, the sessions were reduced to three hours.”

Because the health service in Gaza is under the severest strain imaginable, Shahinaz can now only have two dialysis sessions of two hours per week.

Shahinaz is accompanied by her father when she visits the hospital for dialysis.

Getting there from her tent is an ordeal.

It often takes an hour before they can find someone who will drive them there. On occasions, she has traveled in an overcrowded truck, a cart pulled by an animal or in a tuk-tuk.

Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital has less than 20 dialysis machines.

Before the current genocidal war, it treated just over 100 kidney patients. That number has risen sevenfold.

The heavy demand for the dialysis machines means that patients have to endure lengthy waits before one becomes free.

Most of the medicines the patients need are not available or very scarce.

Shahinaz only has canned food to eat – which is totally unsuitable for kidney patients. She struggles to find clean water.

“I have no hope that I can stay alive,” she said. “I am very tired and I feel that if I don’t die because of the bombing, I will die from illness.”

Fedaa al-Qedra is a journalist in Gaza.