GAZA CITY, June 20 (WHO & JMCC) - Shifa hospital in Gaza City
with its 560 beds is the largest hospital in the whole of the occupied Palestinian territories
. Hundreds of patients come here every day - despite the fact that the hospital‘s main diagnostic instruments are out of order: CT scan, MRI, mammography, endoscope and gastroscope.
The blockade Israel
has imposed on the territory for the past three years is affecting the functioning of medical equipment threefold: firstly, spare parts and replacements cannot be imported or only with great delays. Secondly, engineers are unable to enter Gaza to service the equipment and, thirdly, the recurrent power cuts and surges damage the delicate electronic parts of many machines.
Shifa hospital’s CT scanner – used to diagnose cancers, cardiovascular disease, appendicitis, trauma and other conditions – is out of date and in dire need of servicing. The hospital manages to keep it running thanks to some spare parts ‘borrowed’ from another facility. The scanner’s radiation levels are above international norms. Without an alternative, however, it is used about 15 times a day for emergencies.
Doctor Kamal Jaber, head of diagnostics at Shifa hospital says that generally, CT scanners are very accurate. “Our machine, however, is ten years old, cannot be properly maintained and therefore is at the end of its life cycle.”
The replacement for Shifa’s derelict CT scanner is available in a warehouse in Ramallah
- 80 kilometers from Gaza city as the crow flies. Worth 700,000 USD and donated by a humanitarian organization, it has been lying there for over six months. Despite repeated requests, the supplier has not received permission from the Israeli authorities to deliver the scanner to Gaza. Many more boxes pile up in the warehouse. Among them is a complete radiology unit and life saving equipment such as defibrillators and monitors to monitor patients’ vital signs.
“These essential items are just one example of the effects of the siege on Gaza on the health care system
,” says Tony Laurance. The head of the World Health Organization’s office for West Bank and Gaza added that Gaza’s health system was in steady decline. The International Committee of the Red Cross recently said that the quality of health care in Gaza was “at an all time low.”
Back in Gaza, patients with chronic diseases are particularly hard hit by the lack of appropriate equipment. Shifa hospital serves 200 patients with kidney failure. Three times a week they need to come to the hospital for a four hour session of dialysis. Or more precisely, they should come three times a week: Some have their sessions cut to two, some need to come to late night sessions.
The reason is that not enough dialysis machines are available at Shifa hospital. A dozen of the artificial kidneys are out of order. The highly fluctuating power supply destroyed some of their electronic components. Lacking servicing and spare parts, they stand idle in a storage room.
We want help. We need medicine to get into Gaza. Why do they do this to us?” a desperate woman waiting for her turn for dialysis treatment asked.
Israel has tightly controlled the items allowed to enter and leave the occupied Gaza Strip since the Islamic movement Hamas
took control of the territory in the summer of 2007. Victors in a 2006 Palestinian elections, Hamas was boycotted by Israel and the international community when it refused to recognize Israel and renounce violence.