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Unsafe conditions in Gaza are threatening the lives of hospital patients, doctors have warned, as medical supplies run low and clean water and power is in short supply.
Doctors have spoken out about the fear gripping medical staff who have lost colleagues in Israeli air strikes that destroyed their homes.
Contaminated water has caused an outbreak of gastroenteritis among young children, said medics at Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza who are appealing for more medication and equipment.
“We do not have enough clean water, our water is contaminated and 40 paediatric patients presented with gastroenteritis infections due to the contaminated water,” Dr Hussam Abu Safiya, who heads the hospital's children's department, told The National.
“The situation is really very bad. It is unsafe. The 40 babies were complaining of vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and abdominal pain and this was related to water contamination.”
Medics struggle to cope
The hospital is overwhelmed with hundreds of injured brought in, as thousands of displaced people seek shelter and safety within its compound.
Dr Safiya, a lead physician for non-profit organisation MedGlobal, said staff were struggling to cope with the scale of the casualties.
“Today 30 people from one family were brought to our hospital and unfortunately all died,” he said.
“They were all from one family: babies, the father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, all who live in one house.
“They were pulled from under a house destroyed in the bombing. It is too much to handle for us.”
He said several colleagues were killed when air strikes destroyed their homes after Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7 and this had traumatised staff.
“There is bombing all the time, even now when I’m talking to you, there is bombing,” Dr Safiya said.
“We are working under intense stress. We are working under fear.”
The hospital’s intensive care facility was overrun with patients with blast injuries.
He said with hundreds of new admissions and critical care needed for survivors, the hospital would not evacuate despite Israeli warnings for all residents to move south.
“It will kill patients – we cannot tell them to leave the hospital, and which hospital can we send patients to?” Dr Safiya said.
“We have six neonatal patients in our paediatric ICU, these are children connected to ventilation machines we cannot move.
“We have more patients in our paediatric emergency rooms. We cannot evacuate.”
On the 13th day of the war with Israel, the Health Ministry said Israeli air strikes had hampered efforts to reach the wounded because of destruction to the roads leading to hospitals.
More than 3,785 people including 1,524 children, 1,000 women and 120 elderly people have been killed. Among the deaths were 44 medical personnel, the ministry said.
About 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the start of the war when Hamas fighters crossed over the Gaza border into Israel and took about 200 people hostage.
Trauma therapists work in general hospitals
Dr Mohamed Abu Shawish, a clinical psychologist who previously worked in a trauma and psychiatric hospital in Gaza, said the situation was dire.
“The condition in hospitals is catastrophic,” he said.
“Hospitals are full of too many wounded. There is no place for the new patients. Operations are being done outside the ICU without anaesthesia.”
He said physicians had begun working close to home due to the increased Israeli air strikes.
Dr Abu Shawish now works in the Al Aqsa hospital helping to treat patients coming in with shrapnel wounds and injuries sustained from buildings shattered in the bombings.
“The Gaza Strip is now fragmented, I cannot reach the psychiatric hospital I used to work in,” he said.
“My colleagues are also working in the general hospital.
“We are helping normal people who were wounded in Israeli bombs and not people with mental problems.
“When children, women, elderly come in after bombings we work with the medical team to heal wounds, to stop the bleeding and also try to minimise their fears.”