Date :Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 | Time : 17:25 |ID: 16509 | Print

The Gaza,s hospital loses power for 12 hours at a stretch

SHAFAQNA – In the neonatal wing of Shifa hospital, harried doctors who have not received their salaries for six months dart between dozens of premature babies, hoping that the incubators have survived another Gaza blackout.

The hospital loses power for 12 hours at a stretch. Even with generators and back-ups, sensitive equipment routinely cuts out.

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” Alam Abu Hamda, the unit’s head, said. “Any cut-off puts the babies at risk.”

Even before this summer’s six-week war, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and injured 12,000, Gaza’s health service had been crippled by an eight-year Israeli siege.

The conflict has pushed the system to breaking point. Ashraf al-Qudra, the health ministry spokesman, said that more than 120 medicines were unavailable; hundreds of surgical supplies, even basic items such as sutures, are non-existent; operating theatres and intensive care units have shut because of power cuts.

Hospital cleaners have not been paid since April, and last month went on strike, leaving medical waste to accumulate in corridors. They eventually returned to work, but still have not been paid, and have threatened to walk off again today.

“We barely made it through the Israeli aggression,” Mr al-Qudra said. “We’re on the brink of collapse.”

Ayman al-Sahabani, the head of emergency medicine at Shifa, worked for two straight months during the war. “You cannot imagine what we saw,” he said. “Decapitated people, children with amputated limbs, extensive burns. Every day brought more horror.”

Dr al-Sahabani and his colleagues worked through it all for no money. His salary is £850 per month, but neither he nor his wife, also a doctor, has been paid since April.

The government pays medical workers in Gaza, and since 2007 it has been controlled by Hamas. In April the group agreed to form a unity government with its rival Fatah, a deal that put the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority in charge of salaries.

So far, it has not paid anyone: the Palestinian Authority is facing a budget crunch, and already has its own doctors on the payroll in Gaza, who worked for the ministry before Hamas took charge. Doctors and nurses have received only two payments of £110.

Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian prime minister, visited Gaza last week and vowed to resolve the issue, but Mr al-Qudra said there has been “nothing but talk”. The health ministry has imposed what Mr al-Qudra called an “emergency plan”. The ambulance service has been halved to save petrol, and smaller hospitals closed. “Nothing is working correctly,” he said.

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