From cradle to grave: Inside Gaza's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital
"We work for 72 straight hours. We rarely have a break. Sometimes, we stay at the hospital for the whole week," an exhausted nurse at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, Mohammad Abu-Ali tells The New Arab.
Mohammad is far from the only drained worker in Gaza's battered hospitals these days. Dr Khalid Abu-Habel is similarly shattered, "We're working beyond human capabilities, each day we examine more than 10 cases consecutively. As more of us are pulled from the rubble, the situation continues to deteriorate drastically."
"The polluted water, expired food, and lack of cleanliness at the hospital scare us. We have received tens of gastroenteritis, jaundice, and bronchitis cases among people, particularly children. These cases will haunt us long after the genocide ends"
Unfortunately, such an intense workload is now taking its toll on Khalid and Mohammad. "We don't have time for breakfast," they tell The New Arab. "Rarely do we have lunch. And we only have a can of beans at the end of the day."
From all the previous Israeli aggressions against the besieged Gaza Strip, this is the first time that people have sought refuge inside hospitals.
Hospitals across Gaza now shelter tens, if not hundreds of thousands of civilians, with Al-Aqsa Martyrs and Al-Shifa hospitals the most crowded — the latter of which has now been besieged and stormed by Israeli forces.
Medical professionals now juggle their responsibilities between patients and refugees.
"We estimate that there are over 5,000 injured and 2,400 killed in the hospital. These numbers are unimaginable and far, far exceed the hospital's capacity," the official spokesperson of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, Khalil Al-Degran, remarks.
"Most injuries require intensive care, but there are only 8 ICU beds in the hospital. Unfortunately, most of our patients are beyond our control of care."
It's not only the patients and refugees that are suffering but the medical crews too. "They barely eat and are forced to sleep on the ground for only one or two hours. When they get back to work, there's no equipment left. It's catastrophic," Khalil laments, adding, "The shortage of manpower and supplies has meant that medical students still at university are being called to volunteer."
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital is now solely responsible for Gaza's cancer patients after Israel bombed the Turkish Friendship Hospital in Gaza. Al-Aqsa's maternity department now doubles up as a cancer ward. On the ward, infants cry for milk, which the hospital doesn't have, leading to babies developing diseases as soon as they are born.
Yet the doctors at Al-Aqsa refuse to give up and abandon their patients, despite being burnt out.
Dr Abdul-Qader Wesah, a senior emergency doctor, hasn't left the hospital since October 7. He has yet to see his family. He tells The New Arab: "If I leave for only a minute, it may lead to a death. I cannot have that."
Dr Abdul-Qader describes the situation as heartbreaking and affirms the need for medical supplies to enter Gaza as soon as possible.
"We work all day with almost no breaks. We must find a way to continue properly, it's never been this bad and is affecting us and our patients. The reception hall no longer receives patients, it is full. Hundreds of injured lie on the ground. 80% of the cases are women and children, many of which are now untreatable," he explains.
"The polluted water, expired food, and lack of cleanliness at the hospital scare us. We have received tens of gastroenteritis, jaundice, and bronchitis cases among people, particularly children. These cases will haunt us long after the genocide ends," Dr Abdul-Qader concludes to The New Arab.
Gaza has lost dozens of doctors and nurses throughout Israel's aggression, and many of those who have survived are not too mentally and physically exhausted to continue.
Their patience and resistance are unmatched, but if this war continues, these doctors may, at some point, fall to the ground themselves.
Abubaker Abed is a Palestinian journalist, writer, and translator from the Deir al-Balah Refugee Camp in Gaza
Follow him on X: @AbubakerAbedW