Gaza: The Strip’s largest remaining hospital is near collapse
Vital medical services have almost collapsed at Nasser Hospital amid ongoing heavy fighting and bombing around Khan Younis, in the south of Gaza. The hospital is currently the largest healthcare facility still functioning in the Strip.
Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) deplores a situation in which people have been left with no options for treatment, particularly amid large influxes of war-wounded people.
Most of the hospital’s staff, along with thousands of displaced people who had sought shelter in the hospital, fled in the days leading up to an evacuation order issued to the surrounding areas by Israeli forces.
The hospital’s surgical capacity is now almost non-existent, and the handful of medical staff remaining in the hospital must contend with very low supplies that are insufficient to handle the ‘mass casualty events' that occur when large numbers of people are wounded.
“Systematic attacks against healthcare”
Between 300 and 350 patients remain at Nasser Hospital, unable to evacuate the facility 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 24 January, at least one patient at the hospital died because there was no orthopaedic surgeon available.
“People’s lives are at risk because of the lack of medical care. With Nasser and European Gaza Hospital almost inaccessible, there is no longer a healthcare system in Gaza,” said Guillemette Thomas, MSF medical coordinator in Palestine.
“These systematic attacks against healthcare are unacceptable and must end now so that the wounded can get the care they need. The entire health system has been rendered inoperative."
Rami*, an MSF nurse trapped inside Nasser Hospital, described feeling helpless during a mass casualty event on 25 January that brought 50 wounded and five dead people to the emergency room at once.
“There was no staff left at the emergency room (ER) of Nasser Hospital. There were no beds, just a few chairs and no staff, just a few nurses,” says Rami.
“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.”
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,” says Rami.
“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,” Rami continues.
“This is the situation in Nasser’s operating theatre, can you imagine?”
A sustained ceasefire
After Nasser Hospital, European Gaza Hospital is the second biggest healthcare facility in the south of Gaza, with a large surgical capacity. Right now, it is also unreachable for medical staff and patients as its neighbouring areas are under an evacuation order.
Hospitals need to remain protected spaces and patients and healthcare workers must be allowed to both access and provide medical care.
Today, Friday 26 January, the International Court of Justice issued provisional measures ordering Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and take immediate measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
While this is a significant step, only a sustained ceasefire can stop the loss of more civilian lives, enable the flow of humanitarian assistance and vital supplies for the 2.2 million people living in Gaza
*Name changed for security reasons
MSF and the Israel – Hamas conflict
An unprecedented humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Gaza. MSF teams have worked to treat the wounded and supply overwhelmed hospitals as indiscriminate airstrikes and a state of siege threaten millions of men, women and children.