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Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Gaza hospitals under huge pressure

Israel has carried out air strikes on Gaza for a fifth day, while more Hamas rockets have landed in southern Israel.

Here, two Palestinian doctors explain the difficulties faced by medics in Gaza dealing with the mass casualties.

MAHMOUD EL-KHUZONDAR, SHIFA HOSPITAL, GAZA

Palestinians run for cover following an Israeli missile strike
Palestinian medical officials say more than 1,700 people have been injured
Egypt has opened its border to allow some medical supplies to come into Gaza. A few medicines, fluids and blood bank requirements have come through.

But this material is very minimal and does not cover the requirements of our hospital, which is trying to cope with mass casualties.

We have shortages of everything - medicines, medical equipment, sterilising equipment, blood reagents.

Our blood bank is not adequate - we don't have the material to test the blood for blood types.

There are power cuts for 18 hours at a time. The hospital is using back-up generators but these are running out of fuel.

The hospital is focused on emergency care. All the beds are occupied and we have had to send some injured patients home.

Some have been sent across the Egyptian border.

For the whole of our 12-hour shifts doctors are treating people with all manner of injuries. There are patients who have been crushed under buildings, with multiple fractures and internal haemorrhages.

We treat injured soldiers and civilians, about 20% of the casualties are women and children.

The doctors are working as hard as they can despite the situation.

We have gone back 100 years: we lack electricity, equipment, fluids.

MADHAT ABBAS, PALESTINIAN MINISTRY OF HEALTH, GAZA

We have been able to send some patients to Egypt. But the borders are open or closed depending on the temperament of the government or the whim of the soldiers on the gate.

Sometimes they say they will allow patients through, we stabilise them but by the time they arrive at the border they are sent back to us.

We have the same problems with medical supplies. They arrive at the airport near the Egyptian border and then will take two hours to get into Gaza. We don't know why.

We have received more supplies in the last 48 hours. But the medical teams can't cope.

I will never forget, I was at Shifa hospital on the first day of the attacks and I saw patients lying on the ground, some without limbs. And the doctors were running around like headless chickens because they had so many to deal with.

We did not have enough bandages to stop the bleeding so we had to use bed linen instead.

There will never be enough medical staff - we need more surgeons and specialists. We have over 20 patients on ventilators in one hospital. Our intensive care units are full.

How can we deal with new cases? Should we ask for new ventilators or should we ask for the attacks to stop?

Many of our ambulances are out of order because spare parts have not been allowed through because of one-and-a-half years of blockades.

It is a miserable situation here in Gaza.


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