May 9, 2006

NYT: Funds Cut, Gaza Faces a Plague of Health Woes

Hanin al-Hilo was screaming at the nurses at the main Gaza hospital, Al Shifa: "If I called and said I was the son of Mr. Somebody, some big shot, I'd have a place!"

But with a third of the hospital's dialysis machines awaiting repair and spare parts, Mr. Hilo, a policeman, and his father, sitting weakly in a wheelchair, had to wait in the corridor. Even those using the machines are not being given the normal dose of hormones and minerals, a nurse explained, because the hospital has run out. "Soon they're going to need blood transfusions instead," she said.

With a sudden shortage of everything from disposable needles and adhesive tape to vital drugs, Gaza's once impressive public health system is running down fast under the dual pressure of aid cutoffs and the closing of the Karni crossing point with Israel.

Already, says Al Shifa's general director, Dr. Ibrahim al-Habbash, the hospital can no longer provide chemotherapy for many forms of cancer, has only a few days' supply of important surgical drugs like atropine, adrenaline, heparin and lidocaine, and has used up its strategic three-month cache normally kept for a health crisis.

In addition, armed men have been forcing their way into the hospital demanding preferential treatment for relatives, clan members or friends, and authorization to travel outside Gaza for medical treatment.

"We've suffered in the past, of course, but in the last month, the problems have really increased," Dr. Habbash said. "There are shortages of medications and disposables in all departments, we're trying to limit the operating list and people are suffering, even dying, because of these shortages."

Dr. Habbash hands over his list of urgent needs that he has passed on to the financially troubled Palestinian Ministry of Health. It includes numerous drugs and antibiotics, as well as plaster of Paris, syringes, disposable bed sheets and intravenous solutions, surgical gloves, suture sets and blood-testing needles.

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At 5:38 PM, Blogger Tommy said...

Well, I suppose you might be mildly amused to know that the Quartet has agreed to (at least) temporarily fund the PA after all.



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