The healthcare system in the Gaza Strip is on the verge of collapse, Gaza’s Ministry of Health said Monday, warning that hospitals could stop operating within hours due to the territory’s energy crisis. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the ministry, said that “Shifa Hospital, Kamal Adwan hospital, the European Gaza Hospital, and Rantisi Hospital could stop offering services because they are about to run out of fuel.”
“The current situation is the worst since the Ministry of Health was created in the Gaza Strip,” he added.
The Gaza Strip, which receives its electricity from Israel, Egypt, and its one power plant, has been struggling to produce enough power for months. The hospitals depend on private generators in addition to the power grid, but Israel’s eight-year blockade has severely limited the supply of fuel to the coastal enclave.
The healthcare crisis been exacerbated by the blockade as well as three devastating wars since 2008.
The World Health Organization says there is a chronic shortage of pharmaceutical supplies and medicine in Gaza, with patients in need of tertiary care prevented from traveling from the territory due to the blockade, which Egypt maintains in Gaza’s south.
Meanwhile, Israel’s military offensive on Gaza last summer damaged or destroyed 17 out of 32 hospitals as well as 50 out of 97 primary health centers, according to a UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs report last September.
Six hospitals were forced to close during the conflict and four primary health centers were totally destroyed, the UN added. The months following the war have seen further difficulties, with hospital staff, including doctors and nurses, protesting unpaid salaries.
Hospital cleaners and other staff have gone on strike on several occasions, angry that despite the amount of work they put in during the Israeli assault to ensure that hospitals and clinics continued running, officials have still failed to pay their salaries.
The workers used to be paid by the Hamas-run government in Gaza, but following the formation of a national unity government in June last year, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority disputed who was responsible for salary payment in the territory.
Tension between Hamas and the PA has also been detrimental to the supply of medical aid, with PA officials accusing Hamas officials of stealing the supply sent to Gaza.