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Services collapse at Nasser Hospital, leaving Palestinians with few options for care

The largest remaining health facility in Gaza can no longer provide vital medical services.

Operating theatre through a window in Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza.

Operating theater at Nasser Hospital on November 24, 2023. | Palestine 2023 © MSF

JERUSALEM, January 26, 2024—Nasser Hospital, the largest remaining health facility in the Gaza Strip, can no longer provide vital medical services, leaving many wounded Palestinians with no options for treatment amid ongoing heavy fighting and bombing in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières warned today.

Most of the hospital’s staff, along with thousands of displaced Palestinians who sought shelter in the hospital, fled in the days leading up to Israeli forces’ January 23 evacuation order for the surrounding areas. The hospital’s surgical capacity is now almost nonexistent, and the handful of medical staff remaining in the hospital must contend with very low supplies that are insufficient to handle large influxes of wounded people.  

“People’s lives are at risk because of the lack of medical care,” said Guillemette Thomas, MSF medical coordinator in Palestine. “With Nasser and the European Gaza Hospital almost inaccessible, there is no longer a health care system in Gaza. These systematic attacks against health care are unacceptable and must end now so that the wounded can get the care they need. The entire health system has been rendered inoperative.”

Map of health care under fire in Gaza, Palestine.

"We managed with what we had"

Between 300 and 350 patients remain at Nasser Hospital, unable to evacuate because it is too dangerous and there are no ambulances. These patients have war-related injuries such as open wounds, lacerations from explosions, fractures, and burns. On January 24, at least one patient at the hospital died because there was no orthopedic surgeon available.

Rami, an MSF nurse trapped inside Nasser Hospital, described feeling helpless during a mass casualty event that brought 50 wounded and five dead people to the emergency room on January 25. (We are using only his first name for security reasons.) 

“There was [almost] no staff left at the emergency room of Nasser Hospital,” Rami said. “There were no beds, just a few chairs and a few nurses. We took the patients to the ER to provide first aid. We managed with what we had, tried to stop the bleeding and sort the patients there. It was a horrible event and really affected me psychologically.”

They use [abdominal gauze] once, then squeeze out the blood, wash it, sterilize it and reuse it with another patient. This is the situation in Nasser’s operating theater—can you imagine?

Rami, MSF nurse

Basic supplies, such as gauze pads, are running out

“I went to the surgical room today to receive a patient in our department and asked the few remaining staff if they could supply abdominal gauze,” Rami said. “They said that they didn’t have any to spare, and that the ones they had were already being used on several patients. They use it once, then squeeze out the blood, wash it, sterilize it, and reuse it with another patient. This is the situation in Nasser’s operating theater—can you imagine?” 

After Nasser Hospital, the European Gaza Hospital is the second biggest facility in the south of Gaza, with a large surgical capacity. Today, the hospital is also unreachable for medical staff and patients because neighboring areas are under an evacuation order.

Hospitals need to remain protected spaces and people and medical workers must be allowed to access and provide medical care. 

A young Palestinian man shows his wounded arm at Nasser Hospital in Gaza.
An injured patient at Nasser Hospital in November. Palestine 2023 © MSF

Today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued provisional measures ordering Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and take immediate measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. While the court ordered a series of emergency measures, including to enable the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance, it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire. Only a sustained ceasefire can stop the loss of more civilian lives, and enable the flow of humanitarian assistance and vital supplies for the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza.

How we're responding to the war in Gaza