Saturday, January 12, 2008

City without life

City without life

At alnajar hospital

1-What about electricity?

We have a generator. But there is a gap in time between the time the electricity cuts off and the generator gets started. (For the operating rooms, they showed us battery backups designed to cover this gap.) We have a new x-ray section, but it is not ready. We need more machines.

2-Do you have enough diesel fuel for the generators?

We need 19,000 liters but have only 1,500. We lost a lot of diesel fuel in a storm that collapsed one of our tanks.

The hospital director, Dr. Ahmed Abu-Nekira, arrived and continued the interview.

I have five sons and two daughters. I was in a clinic before the hospital. The hospital has 40 beds. It hopes to have 60 when the expansion is completed.

I studied in Israel, at Beer Sheba University—anesthesiology and intensive care. I worked for ten years at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. I came here to Gaza during the second intifada. I am the director, but I do not identify either with Fatah or with Hamas. About 70 doctors work in the hospital, especially in surgery and anesthesia. About 40 of those 70 are without salary. Six months ago, Ramallah asked me as director to take a salary but not work. [Fatah is trying to pressure Hamas with this work boycott.] Because I insisted on working, they won’t pay my salary. I keep working because I love work and Palestine. The salaries of five managers here also stopped six months ago. There used to be 190 people working in the hospital and getting salaries from Ramallah, but now they stay at home, don’t work, and still get their salaries. Ninety people actually work at the hospital, but as volunteers without salaries. As manager, I used to receive 5,000 shekels a month [about $1,250.00.] Even that was not enough. Now that I do not receive that salary, I depend on my second job, at a private hospital, as an anesthetist. I earn 50 shekels per patient..There have been a lot of injuries from the intifada. The closure has also affected the hospital a lot. There are many medications we don’t have; also machines. We have one intensive care unit and an emergency room, but no monitors and no ventilators. Patients die because they can’t exit to Israel. Rafah lost ten this year; Gaza strip lost 55. Ninety percent need a kidney flush. Most used to go to Egypt. This summer we have a project to create a kidney section, especially since patients can no longer leave Gaza for dialysis. We have six machines here for dialysis, all in a 5 by 4 meter room (12 by 15 feet). We have two more machines, but no place to put them. We hope to have place for them in two weeks—we are trying to move dialysis to another section. We have 50 dialysis patients, ten with positive virus. They had to go to Nasser Hospital (in Khan Younis), which is expensive.We are not asking for money; we are asking for machines. They can’t get in now. We have one CBC machine. Last night I was told that it didn’t give the white blood count. We had to stop building a wall for lack of building materials. Working here is like breaking rocks in a prison. We are looking for help just to survive, not yet to get what we really need. We suffer especially from lack of gasoline and food—especially vegetables and fruits for patients .I was the first to try to help Rachel Corrie when she was run over by the bulldozer. I also was the first for Tom Hurndall. We help everyone. It doesn’t matter where you are from.

Are you seeing malnutrition?

Yes. Especially in children. No work, no salary.

How do people survive without a salary?

UNRWA gives food. Many people eat meat only twice a year—on Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. Most donations are to a limited number of people. They don’t share. 90% of people are without jobs.

How long can it go on?

It started in 2005 with the elections. It got worse in 2006 when Fatah was driven out. Ask the American people—not the government. They encourage democracy, then they don’t accept the results. It’s bad for U.S. history.

My son wanted to buy shoes for the winter. He couldn’t find any. He is still wearing his summer shoes.

We are hoping to find a U.S. sister hospital.