Physicians in Gaza: “We let Patients Scream for hours and hours”

Medical professionals in Gaza have reported performing surgeries without anaesthesia, refusing treatment to patients with chronic illnesses, and managing severe wounds with scarce medical resources.

“Due to the lack of pain relief medication, patients are left to cry out in agony for extended periods,” one individual informed the BBC.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has characterised the healthcare situation in Gaza as indescribable.

As of Sunday, 23 hospitals in Gaza were reported as not functioning, with 12 partially functioning and one minimally.

According to the health agency, air strikes and a shortage of supplies have further strained an already limited system.

According to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Hamas consistently utilises hospitals and medical centres for its terror activities.

According to a statement given to the BBC, the IDF clarified that they did not target hospitals, but instead entered specific areas to dismantle Hamas’ infrastructure, capture Hamas terrorists, and proceed with caution.

It mentioned the allowance of humanitarian aid into Gaza, which includes medical supplies.

Aid organisations, such as the WHO, report instances of frequent access restrictions and denials.

Warning: This article contains details some readers may find upsetting

Hospitals expanded

According to healthcare workers, Gaza’s hospitals are overcrowded and have limited equipment. Reports indicate that certain hospitals in southern Gaza are functioning at more than 300% of their bed capacity.

Four field hospitals have been established in Gaza, totaling 305 beds, as reported by the WHO.

Over the weekend, the Nasser hospital in southern Gaza was reported to have become non-operational after a raid by Israeli forces.

On Sunday night, the IDF reported discovering weapons and medicines with names and photos of hostages at the hospital. They also captured “hundreds of terrorists” who were hiding there. “Hamas is endangering Gaza’s most vulnerable citizens by using hospitals for terror,” it previously informed the BBC.

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According to staff at nearby hospitals, the operation at Nasser has increased pressure on them.

Yousef al-Akkad, director of the Gaza European Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, expressed that the current situation there is the most challenging they have encountered since the start of the conflict.

“This situation was already serious, so what do you imagine it’s become with the addition of thousands more people who have been displaced and are now residing in the hallways and public spaces?”

According to him, the hospital faced a shortage of beds for patients requiring treatment, leading to makeshift arrangements like laying sheets over metal frames and wood, and having many patients on the floor without any proper facilities.

Doctors from various locations in the Gaza Strip shared similar experiences. “Even if there is somebody with cardiac arrest or cardiac problems, we put them on the floor and start to work on them,” stated Dr. Marwan al-Hams, director of Rafah’s Martyr Mohammed Yusuf al-Najjar Hospital.

A political committee from Hamas has appointed directors for public hospitals in Gaza. At times, these directors were appointed before Hamas gained control of the Strip.

Patients are receiving treatment on the floor, according to Dr. Marwan al-Hams.

Supplies and medication

Doctors are facing challenges in their work due to a shortage of medical supplies. “We are unable to locate any oxygen,” one informed the BBC.

Dr al-Akkad reported a shortage of anaesthetics, ICU supplies, antibiotics, and painkillers. Many individuals suffered severe burns and are in need of appropriate pain relief.

A doctor verified that surgeries were proceeding without anaesthesia.

A WHO team reported meeting a seven-year-old girl at the European Gaza hospital who was suffering from 75% burns, but was unable to receive pain relief due to limited supplies.

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According to Dr. Mohamed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda hospital in northern Gaza, individuals were brought in for treatment using donkeys and horses.

“The disaster occurs when the patients’ injuries are decaying, as they have remained open for over two or three weeks,” he remarked.

He mentioned that surgeons had to perform operations using headlamps due to power outages.

Disenfranchised workers

According to the WHO, approximately 20,000 healthcare workers in Gaza are facing challenges in providing care due to personal struggles.

According to Dr al-Akkad, the hospital’s staff and volunteers have increased, in part due to individuals from other regions who have been displaced offering their assistance. However, he mentioned that the current resources were insufficient to handle the influx of patients and variety of injuries they were dealing with.

After the bombings, he mentioned that the injured individuals arriving at the hospital resembled kofta, a dish made with ground meat.

“The individual frequently arrives with brain injuries, fractured ribs, broken limbs, and occasionally even loses an eye… We have treated a wide range of injuries at our hospital.

According to him, a single patient might require the expertise of five or more specialist doctors to address the various injuries.

Emergency medical services in Rafah attend to a wounded guy

Some doctors who have continued working are currently away from their families.

Dr Salha in northern Gaza expressed his longing to reunite with his family, who have been away for over three months seeking safety in the south.

“I find comfort in being able to help children, women, and the elderly by providing healthcare and saving lives.”

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Not enough space for long-term patients

According to doctors interviewed by the BBC, individuals in Gaza with chronic conditions have suffered significant consequences.

“We currently do not have any available beds or resources to provide further assistance,” Dr. al-Akkad stated.

For individuals undergoing dialysis four times a week, the frequency has been reduced to once a week. If this individual was working 16 hours a week, it will now be reduced to one hour.

Some women are delivering babies in tents without medical assistance, as hospitals offering midwifery services report having restricted availability.

One department experiences loss while another department welcomes a new beginning. When children come into the world, there is no milk available for them. According to Dr. Salha, the hospital offers a box of milk for each child.

Patients are arriving at hospitals with illnesses that have proliferated in cramped and unhygienic environments.

“There are illnesses and we are unable to find any cure,” expressed 54-year-old Abu Khalil, who has been relocated to Rafah in southern Gaza.

It’s important to head out early and queue, but be prepared to find a long queue with many people ahead of you. You return without anything.”

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