Gaza's hospitals struggle to cope with thousands of casualties

Gaza's hospitals struggle to cope with thousands of casualties
Throughout the day on Monday, Gaza's main hospital received about 500 injured people, more than 90 percent with gunshot wounds.
3 min read
16 May, 2018
Gaza's main hospital was already overwhelmed before Monday's massacre [Getty]
Dozens of injured Palestinians are still waiting for surgery at Gaza's main hospital, where patients with gunshot wounds filled wards and hallways. 

At least 61 people were killed on Monday and more than 2,400 injured after Israeli forces gunned down Palestinians protesting against the US embassy move to Jerusalem.

Even before the latest round of bloodshed, Gaza's health system of 13 public hospitals and 14 clinics run by NGOs had buckled under persistent blockade-linked shortages of medicines and surgical supplies.

The besieged enclave also suffers 22-hour-a-day power cuts and fuel shortages.

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the main health facility in the strip, these woes were magnified this week.

Anticipating a major influx of casualties ahead of Monday’s mass march, Shifa had set up an outdoor triage station under a green and blue tarp in the hospital courtyard, setting up 30 beds and stretchers there, Associated Press reported.

Throughout the day on Monday, Shifa received about 500 injured people, more than 90 percent with gunshot wounds, said hospital director Ayman Sahbani. Of those, 192 needed surgery, including 120 who needed orthopedic surgery, he said.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, overwhelmed surgeons working in 12 operating theatres had only performed 40 orthopedic operations, with 80 others still waiting their turn, with families fearing their loved ones' conditions would deteriorate as they waited for treatment.

There is no justification for the killing, there is no excuse.

Nickolay Mladenov, the special UN envoy to the region, told the Security Council on Tuesday that hospitals in Gaza were "reporting an unfolding crisis of essential medical supplies, drugs and equipment needed to treat the injured".

He said a UN official who visited Gaza, "witnessed first-hand patients being brought in on stretchers and left in the hospital's courtyard, which was being used as a triage area."

"There is no justification for the killing, there is no excuse," Mladenov said, adding that Israel had a responsibility to calibrate its use of force. 

On Tuesday, British charity Save the Children warned families of those injured will struggle to cope without sufficient after care.

"The influx of new injuries means people are being treated in corridors and sent home before they have properly healed," said Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children's country director for the Palestinian territories. 

She added: "Families who are now left looking after injured loved ones, are telling us that they are struggling to cope. They often cannot afford the medicines or medical bills for follow up care and extremely anxious about their children's futures."

Last month, Amnesty International said many injured Gazans had suffered extreme bone and tissue damage from Israeli gunshots, and with a high number of wounds to the knees, that Israeli forces were deliberately shooting to inflcit life-changing injuries.

Agencies contributed to this report.