Red Cross Report on Gaza–January 28, 2009

Red Cross Report on Gaza–January 28, 2009

Report by the Red Cross (ICRC) on situation of hospitals in Gaza

Gaza: the crisis past, hospitals and their patients still facing severe

Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Date: 27 Jan 2009

ICRC News Bulletin No. 17/09

One month after the start of the conflict, the situation in hospitals
is starting to return to normal. In Gaza, however, “normal” is a
relative term. Many people who have been seriously wounded or disabled
may require medical care for the rest of their lives. And more than
just basic humanitarian aid will be needed to keep vital health
facilities running adequately.

On 27 December 2008, what seemed to be a never-ending wave of severely
wounded and bleeding patients started overwhelming hospital emergency
rooms. At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, doctors had to operate on two
patients at once in each operating theatre to keep up.

Now, one month later, the numbers of patients arriving have dropped
dramatically and the emergency rooms are once again treating patients
with less serious injuries. Planned surgery for various diseases that
are not life-threatening has also resumed.

Nevertheless, hospitals are still filled with patients who were
wounded during the fighting and who now need post-operative care and
further treatment. Many of the seriously wounded now have to come to
terms with being handicapped for life. An ICRC surgeon and a
physiotherapist continue their work at ShifaHospital in GazaCity
helping these patients. The physiotherapist works with amputees in
particular in order to prepare them to be fitted with artificial

“It normally takes six months for an amputee to heal,” said Eileen
Daly, an ICRC health coordinator. “As soon as they are ready, these
patients will go to the ICRC-supported Artificial Limb and PolioCenter
in GazaCity to be fitted with a device which, it is hoped, can help
them walk again.”

Short-term emergency aid necessary but not sufficient

According to initial assessments carried out by the ICRC, the three
most damaged hospitals in Gaza are Al Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital and
Nursing Home, Al Dorra Paediatric Hospital and the Palestine Red
Crescent’s Al Quds Hospital, all of which took direct hits during the
conflict. Other hospitals, including NasrPaediatricHospital, the
OphthalmicHospital, Al Awda Hospital, and TelAl-IslamHospital, also
suffered damage, mostly shattered windows from air strikes on
neighbouring targets. The ICRC is distributing plastic sheeting and
tarpaulins where needed to cover broken windows and holes in the walls
and roofs.

Because of the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip which has now lasted
more than a year and a half, hospitals are run down and much of the
equipment is unreliable and in need of repair. Some medical supplies,
including heavy painkillers and medicines for treating cancer patients
and patients with bleeding disorders, are not available.

“Getting spare parts for medical equipment and other supplies into the
Gaza Strip on a regular basis is key to addressing this situation –
and a matter of priority,” said Pierre Wettach, head of the ICRC
delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. “We should do
everything possible to avoid going back to the situation we had under
the closure prior to 27 December. What we would like to see is the
full opening of crossing points, the resumption of normal imports, and
the possibility for students and professionals, such as doctors, to
receive education abroad,” said Mr Wettach.