More than a week after air strikes started on the Gaza Strip and following the beginning of a land incursion by Israeli forces, surgical services in Gaza are overwhelmed. There is an urgent need for vascular surgeons in order to deal with the number of wounded. In Gaza City, the intensive care unit of the Shifa referral hospital has reached the limits of its capacity. The insecurity is preventing patients needing post-operative follow up and health personnel from reaching health care facilities.
Three Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff - a field coordinator, a doctor and a nurse - arrived in the Gaza Strip Dec. 31, to reinforce the local teams of 35 health personnel. The intensity of the bombing hasn’t allowed MSF to continue with post-operative care in the MSF clinic in Khan Younis in the south. This clinic has been closed since the beginning of the air raids, and is now no longer accessible from the north as the Gaza Strip has been cut in two. In Beit Lahia, the insecurity has repeatedly forced MSF teams to interrupt the pediatric activities despite several attempts to provide consultations and relieve the workload of doctors in Kamel Edwan hospital. Since the land incursion on the night of the Jan. 4, the intense violence has lead MSF to give up its intervention in this northern part of Gaza. Finally, in Gaza City few patients have been able to go to the MSF clinic where teams continue providing post-operative and medical follow up for wounded who are referred from Shifa Hospital.
MSF is adapting its activities to reach people in need of medical help who are unable to leave their homes due to the insecurity. Local MSF doctors, nurses and physiotherapists have taken medical supplies to their own neighbourhoods and are providing care and distributing medical material to meet the immediate needs of patients living in their vicinity. In response to a request from the Shifa referral hospital, MSF is attempting to send a surgical team into Gaza Strip. MSF is also trying to send a mobile hospital unit with an operating theatre and an intensive care unit, and medical material for treating the wounded and supplying hospitals, in order to help them deal with the numerous emergencies they are facing in Gaza.
Since July 2007, MSF has been providing post-operative care and physiotherapy to hundreds of people wounded by fighting in the Gaza Strip. In March 2008 a pediatric clinic was opened in Gaza for children under 12 years of age. In Nablus, on the West Bank, as in Gaza, MSF provides psychological, medical, and social support to families affected by violence. The team is composed of 11 international staff and 108 local staff members. MSF also operates a psychological support program in the West Bank town of Hebron. MSF has been working in Gaza and the West Bank since 1989.