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Physicians for Human Rights – Israel: Gaza health system in crisis

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July 12, 2014 by IJV

Serious shortages in medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, fuel shortages and reports of damage to medical installations, medical teams and emergency rescue vehicles.

The continued offensive causes a deterioration of the already inadequate health system and may lead to its collapse.

In light of the state of severe crisis in the Palestinian Health System – defined by the Palestinian Ministry of Health as the gravest situation since the closure of the Gaza Strip in 2007 – hospitals are facing great difficulties in treating the rising numbers of injured – over 500 so far. In view of this situation the Ministry of Health of the Gaza Strip declared a state of emergency on 8.7.14 within which all non-urgent scheduled operations have been put on hold; the state of alert in all medical institutions has been raised and holidays of all hospital workers have been cancelled.

According to officials in the Gaza Strip there is a worsening shortage of medical equipment required for the functioning of the hospitals. From the information which has reached Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-IL) from the drug administration officials in Gaza, there is a shortage of 471 kinds of expendable medical supplies, including bandages. In addition, the supplies have run out of about 30% of basic drugs – 122 different pharmaceuticals – including anesthetics and intravenous infusion products.

Medical personnel in Gaza report their severe distress directly to PHR-IL. So, for example, the “Shifa” Hospital – the largest hospital in the Strip, which has treated over half of the injured from the start of the offensive – has started to use their emergency supplies which are expected only to last a further three days. From Information provided to PHE-IL by medical staff working at the “Alodda” Hospital in Jabaliya we have learnt that due to equipment shortages hospital teams have been forced to improvise to find alternatives for basic materials. Teams in operating rooms have had to use ordinary thread from seamstresses, which are not sterile in place of purpose made sterile medical sutures.  The workers further reported that the threads were manually sterilized to avoid infection.

In addition, over recent days PHR-IL has received reports of damage to medical buildings, including hospitals and clinics as well as to medical personnel. The European Hospital in Khan Younis was hit twice during the last few days from the aerial bombings nearby. The hospital spokesperson informed PHR-IL that the explosion which took place yesterday (9.7.14) near the hospital caused the damage causing the injury of 17 people within the hospital itself, with women and children included in those injured. The hospital reported that the plaster ceilings in the intensive care department, pediatrics department, the hospital entrance and waiting room, have all collapsed. Other departments, including internal medicine, cardiology and pediatric surgery were filled with broken glass after the windows and glass doors were shattered. In the light of the damage the hospital was forced to evacuate the Pediatrics Department of Children and close all outpatient clinics.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society reports that last night at 21:30 the emergency rescue center and ambulance services department in Jabaliya which serves a population of around 350,000 was also hit by an aerial bombing nearby. It was also reported that 12 medics and volunteers were injured. Nine of these were treated and returned to their activities while three needed to be hospitalized. Three out of eight ambulances were damaged and had to be removed from operation. Due to the damage the center has had to close its services. Partial services for the residents are being supplied from Gaza city.

In addition, yesterday (9.7.14) the PMRS organization, a voluntary health organization operating in Gaza, reported that the organization’s Medical Center, located in Beit Hanoun was damaged by heavy bombardments carried out nearby. During the last night, there were reports received at PHR-IL different reports that the civil emergency line (101) that allows summoned rescue teams had been cut off.

In addition to the crisis in the health system and the damage to medical centers there is also an ongoing severe shortage of diesel needed to operate generators in Gaza’s hospitals. More than two weeks ago, Palestinian Ministry of Health warned that fuel reserves are dwindling and are approximately at 20% of the fuel levels required. The shortage of diesel fuel also affects the movement of ambulances which need diesel. In light of these shortages, the Gaza Health Ministry ordered to reduce by 50% the movement of ambulances. Since that time there has been an increasing lack of diesel and there is fear of even more serious damage to the functioning of the health system in Gaza.

Damage to hospitals and medical centers or adjacent aerial bombing threatens the lives of medical staff and the patients themselves, violating the medical neutrality and ignoring the special protection afforded to these teams due to their status and vital role. Also, this damage leads to a state of lack of basic security while staying in medical institutions. There is concern that this violation, if it continues or worsens, would hamper the ability of medical teams to offer aid and save lives.

 PHR-IL calls for the State of Israel to stop the military offensive and to avoid at all costs any direct attack on or near the facilities and medical infrastructure and to avoid any attacks on medical and rescue teams and patients: “Out of concern for the lives and welfare of all residents of the area we make a heartfelt and resounding call – stop the fire and stop the incitement. Do not bring before us more victims that require treatment. Put the lives, health and rights of all human beings at the head of your concerns. Do not continue on our behalf with this operation causing further destruction and revenge. It is time to devote the resources and energies that are being directed to war and killing to finally end the occupation and to establish a different vision”.

Lital Grosman, PHR-IL spokesperson.

More updates on: Facebook and Website

PHRֹ StatementJuly14 Gaza Manifest_EngAd

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