Care for 10,000 patients in Gaza’s only cancer hospital disrupted by Israeli strikes

Bedridden cancer patients have moved into hospital's corridors, afraid of being near windows

People inspect the area of Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, where hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast. The WHO has called Israeli air strikes on or near healthcare facilities 'terribly concerning'. Reuters
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Gaza’s only hospital for cancer treatment, with 10,000 registered patients, has been impacted by Israeli air strikes twice in the past 12 hours, the director of the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital told The National.

“The third floor of the hospital for in-patient care with 26 beds has gone completely out of service,” Dr Subhi Skaik said.

“Now bedridden cancer patients are staying in the hospital’s corridors, too afraid to stay in their rooms near the windows.”

Hospital officials did not receive any threats or warnings to leave the premises, Dr Skaik said.

“There are no outsiders [displaced people] on our premises, just our staff and some of their family members who I’ve allowed to stay with us in order to ensure that our cancer-treatment operations go on as smoothly as possible given the circumstances we’re in.”

World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the air strikes "terribly concerning".

"Cancer patients are already fragile and it's imperative to do everything possible to ensure they're receiving the care they need. It’s truly a matter of life or death," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Dr Skaik said the hospital treated about 550 regular patients every day before the war broke out.

“Now, barely 30 or 40 come by. It’s unsafe for them to leave their homes. Private cars are regularly targeted by Israeli air strikes and transportation is unavailable or simply unaffordable.”

Now that the hospital has been hit twice "people will no longer find it safe to come," he added.

Dr Skaik said hospital staff have been encouraging patients to reach out to their doctors directly to follow up on their care.

“People often ask us if they can delay their chemotherapy sessions – and by how long. And we tell them to call us ahead because we don’t want them to come all the way for them to not find the treatment available.”

The hospital is still able to provide care despite running "dangerously low on supplies and medicine", because of the "relatively few number of people that visit", the doctor said.

Last week the UN warned that any attack on health care facilities “will be a violation of international humanitarian law”.

"Israel has not had mercy on anyone," Dr Skaik said. “Cancer patients are condemned to death by their own illness – and now, by Israeli strikes, and if not the strikes, then the simple lack of medicine."

Updated: October 31, 2023, 5:01 PM