January 13, 2009

The MSF medical team in Gaza is carrying out its work, although team members wish they could provide more aid. Still, they are treating wounded patients who cannot reach a hospital and supplying health workers with medical equipment and medications.



Gaza 2009 © Mustafa Hassona

Staff at Al Shifa hospital treat an elderly patient in Gaza City.

The Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical team in Gaza is carrying out its work, although team members wish they could provide more aid. Still, they are treating wounded patients who cannot reach a hospital and supplying health workers with medical equipment and medications.

Hospitals have major medical needs

Yesterday and today, the MSF team managed to reach the Al Shifa referral hospital, which is in major need of surgical support. At the hospital’s request, MSF is trying to dispatch a surgical team and a mobile hospital with an operating room and intensive care unit to increase capacity for treating the wounded.

An additional 34 wounded patients arrived at the hospital on the nights of January 12 and 13; the intensive care unit is working at full capacity. The majority of emergencies involve seriously wounded patients and those with multiple traumas, primarily to the thorax, abdomen, and face. This week, 100 percent of the beds in the unit are full. The Al Shifa hospital teams are overwhelmed and are working around the clock.

Medical workers and patients are unable to move about

The wounded cannot reach health facilities because moving about is dangerous. The story of a woman around 60 years old who was seriously injured during bombing in Jabalia, is a familiar one. She managed to crawl to her house, but could not get to a hospital. Her son had been killed immediately. MSF provided supplies and medications to a Palestinian nurse who lives near her and an MSF nurse managed to reach the woman's home. The patient had sustained fractures and head trauma and required hospitalization, but she was still unable to get to a hospital.

As of December 27, 19 of MSF’s Palestinian staff-members (six doctors and 13 nurses) have been equipped with medical kits so they can provide treatment in the neighborhoods where patients live. Thanks to this organizational approach, our teams see an average of 40 patients per day across the entire Gaza Strip. “Our movements are incredibly limited,” explains Colin, an MSF nurse. “Until the fighting ends, we won’t be able to do our job properly.”

Overall assessment impossible

The MSF team was able to reach the gathering sites of the UNRWA (the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees). There are nearly 2,500 displaced persons at one of the sites. MSF distributed medical supplies and medications to the doctors there.

However, given the security situation, our teams cannot assess the full extent of medical needs in the Gaza Strip. “Since we cannot move about, it is very difficult to evaluate needs,” explains Cécile Barbou, MSF medical coordinator in Gaza. “It’s a nightmare. We have to limit our travel as much as possible to avoid taking too many risks. A dead health worker is no help to anyone.”

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