Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières teams in Gaza have provided post-operative care to more than 500 people injured by gunshots since April 1, amid clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters engaged in the Great Return March. The number of patients treated in MSF's three medical clinics in Gaza over the last few weeks is more than the number treated by MSF throughout all of 2014, when Israel’s Operation Protective Edge was launched in the Gaza Strip.
MSF medical staff report receiving patients with unusually severe injuries, many of which are extremely complex to treat. Such serious injuries will leave many of these patients with long-term physical disabilities.
Medical teams in Gaza's hospitals are preparing for a possible influx of wounded patients this Friday as demonstrations continue. MSF surgeons in Gaza report devastating gunshot wounds among hundreds of people injured during the protests of the recent weeks. The vast majority of patients—mainly young men, but also some women and children—have severe wounds to the lower extremities. MSF medical teams note that the injuries include destruction of bones and soft tissue, as well as large exit wounds that can be the size of a fist.
“Half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone,” said Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, MSF head of mission in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “These patients will need to have very complex surgical operations, and most of them will have disabilities for life.”
Managing these injuries is very difficult. Apart from regular nursing care, patients will often need additional surgery, and a very long treatment program of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Many patients will have functional deficiencies for the rest of their life. Some patients may yet need amputation if not provided with sufficient care in Gaza, or if they are unable to obtain the necessary authorization to be treated outside of the strip.
To cope with this massive influx of patients, MSF has reinforced its capacities, increased the number of beds in its post-operative clinics, and recruited and trained additional medical staff. A fourth clinic will open soon in the Middle-Area region of Gaza to provide patients with the necessary specialized care.
In response to the crisis, MSF has also deployed a team of surgeons—including vascular, orthopedic, and reconstructive surgeons—and anesthetists to operate on the more severe cases. This team currently works side-by-side with Palestinian medical staff in Al-Shifa and Al-Aqsa public hospitals.
MSF has worked in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1989. Since 2000, we have adapted our services to meet the changing needs of people in Gaza. Our teams in three clinics offer post-operative care to people suffering from burns or trauma injuries.