GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip’s already dilapidated health sector is being brought to its knees by Israel’s current war on the Palestinians.
Hospitals have been overwhelmed with waves of casualties from the Israeli bombardment, and supplies of vital medicines are rapidly running out in the blockaded coastal enclave.
In addition, two leading doctors have been killed: internal medicine consultant Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, who was leading the COVID-19 team at Al-Shifa Hospital, and Health Ministry neurologist Moeen Al-Aloul.
Israeli airstrikes have damaged six hospitals and nine primary healthcare centers in Gaza. The territory’s main COVID-19 laboratory and the Ministry of Health offices have also been hit, forcing testing to be halted for several days.
The Rimal Martyrs Health Center in Gaza City was targeted by Israeli bombs last Monday, said Dr. Ayman Al-Halabi, director general of medical support services at the Ministry of Health, which forced the central laboratory to halt all services.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said: “The war is draining the limited capabilities of the ministry. The healthcare system “will be at a dangerous juncture” if the Israeli aggression continues, he added.
“There is an acute shortage of medical personnel, medicines and medical supplies, as well as ambulances,” Al-Qidra told Arab News. He said the ministry is in continuous communication with local and international organizations to ensure the urgent needs of hospitals are met.
“With the continuation of the brutal Israeli aggression, the ministry launched an urgent appeal for $46.6 million to meet the urgent needs of the health sector in terms of medicines, medical consumables, operating equipment, intensive care, diagnostic radiology, surgical tools, laboratories and other emergency needs to ensure the continuation of health services,” he added.
Ezz El-Din Shaheen, an anesthesiologist and intensive-care doctor at Al-Shifa Medical Complex, said the healthcare system in Gaza has had to deal with wars, disasters and other crises for a long time.
“Doctors, nurses, paramedics and technicians working in the health sector are divided into groups and a 24-hour shift system is adopted, then a rest period, then a 24-hour shift, and so on,” he said.
“There are departments that have a scarcity of health staff, so the work in them is more stressful and the number of working hours is more, as is the case in the surgical departments.”
The Ministry of Health is also concerned about the displacement of more than 60,000 Palestinians who are now living in 58 shelters with inadequate health services. There are fears that this might cause a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of other infectious and skin diseases that might prove difficult for health workers to deal with.
Before the current conflict the Gaza Strip most recently experienced wars in 2008, 2012 and 2014. In addition there have been many rounds of escalating hostilities that lasted several days and resulted in deaths and injuries among Palestinians.