The Gaza health ministry has announced a state of emergency in hospitals and medical centres across the besieged Palestinian enclave, as top officials warned that basic services may soon be cut as a result of dwindling medical supplies and unpaid wages.
Dr Yousef Abu Elrish, head of the higher committee for emergencies at the ministry, told a press conference in Gaza City on Wednesday that nutrition and cleaning services in hospitals, and ambulance services, may soon be halted across the strip.
Elrish said the Palestinian consensus government – formed in June between rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah – had not met its in responsibilities towards Gaza’s health sector, failing to fund the day-to-day costs at Gaza’s hospitals since June.
The health ministry needs $6.3 million each month to run and can only cover $400,000 of this total through revenues, according to its latest records which MEE reviewed.
The paralysed Palestinian political process has resulted in unpaid wages for approximately 50,000 public sector employees in Gaza, including doctors and other medical staff.
Over the past two months, cleaners at medical facilities in Gaza have complained about not receiving their salaries. On Wednesday, they held a protest and walked out of government hospitals in a one-day strike, leaving piles of garbage at several Gazan hospitals.
This is not the first time the cleaners have protested, but they said they will not return to work this time until they are paid. Umm Ibrahim lay on bed at the Emirati Red Crescent Maternity Hospital, one day after giving birth to her son. She told Middle East Eye that the cleaners had not worked since the morning she arrived.
“One can’t live without the help of cleaners in hospitals and doctors can’t treat and clean rooms at the same time,” she said.
Gaza has suffered from a chronic shortage of medical supplies for several years, a situation that was exacerbated by Israel’s 50-day assault on the territory over the summer.
Ministry of health spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said stocks for 120 medications and 470 types of medical supplies have entirely run out, including treatments for chronic diseases like kidney failure and liquids for blood analysis. Palestinians in Gaza have also complained about long delays for surgical procedures.
One of those patients was Amal al-Arishi who was sitting in a corridor at Shifa Hospital on Thursday. Early in the morning, doctors told her that she was ready to give birth and they planned to do a caesarian section. But after they prepared her for the procedure, the doctors returned to tell her that the operation room was too unclean to be used to delivery new babies and she would have to wait.
Other patients who need surgery may wait for up to nine weeks, doctors said. Dr Elrish warned that the coming days could see the complete closure to vital health facilities in Gaza, including Harazin Maternity Hospital, Beit Hanoun Hospital and Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital, the only public facility which serves more than 170,000 people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
At Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in the Strip, frustration was mounting as people attempted to register for operations on Wednesday, most of which were delayed. Pools of blood and used bandages covered the floors.
A Gaza-based minister, who said he preferred to remain anonymous as he coordinated discussion between Gaza and Ramallah, said Gazan politicians are concerned about the situation and have raised the issue with the leadership in Ramallah, but have yet to see concrete action. MIDDLE EAST EYE