Monday, 14 July 2014

Supplies exhausted at Gaza hospitals, but not medical workers’ commitment


I remember that during Operation Cast Lead, the winter 2008-2009 Israeli offensive on Gaza, I would pressure my father to show me the bullets and shrapnel that he removed from the bodies of those he treated. He often tucked them in a handkerchief and hid them in a kitchen drawer.

During those three weeks, my father spent most of his time at the hospital and we saw only fragments of him. My father, Basil Baker, is a neurosurgeon, a Cairo graduate who works at al-Shifa hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip. We live just across the road from this hospital, except that now I live in London.

Though Dad has been a doctor for as long as I can remember, I had absolutely no idea about work dynamics in the hospital until I interviewed him on Sunday.

Israel continues to pound the Gaza Strip. The death toll rises so rapidly that I find it impossible to pen a number as I write, and as readers read.

I asked my father to describe a typical day in the hospital, urging him to tell me more about how work is organized and divided among the various sections at a time like this.

“In emergency situations like this,” Dad explained, “doctors in the hospital are divided into two groups; each works on a 24-hour shift. When one group has completed its shift, it hands work over to the second group so that the first one can rest. We go to the hospital at 9:00 in the morning to replace the former group.

“First, we go over every patient we have; we make sure every patient has all she or he needs, take notes, do x-rays, blood tests and all this stuff. Then we try to reorganize the various sections — sections where low-risk patients are housed are released or transferred to smaller hospitals to allow room for others.

“Having finished the morning check-up, we write a report based on the notes, and submit it to the hospital administration. The administration uses this report to decide which patients need to be transferred to hospitals outside of Gaza, to present it to [foreign] delegations, and to decide on who will be moved to smaller hospitals. This is basic work. Other than that, we work with the cases we receive during the day.” more

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