SDC Deputy Director visits Shifa Hospital in Gaza
Mr Poretti, with SDC programme manager, Alexandre Ghelew, and Jaser Abu Mousa, SDC local representative, met with the General Director of Shifa Hospital and other senior staff to hear first-hand about the challenges facing the health sector in the Gaza Strip.
Switzerland has been an important supporter of the Gaza health sector, funding WHO’s right to health advocacy project and has provided funds for emergency medical supplies.
The discussion highlighted the increasing demands of the growing population on the health system, the difficulties for patients in accessing health care outside Gaza and the lack of some services and medical equipment, and was followed by a tour of the surgical and neonatal units.
Shortages of electricity, fuel and reliance on electric backup generators increase the need for spare parts, which adds an additional financial burden on the Ministry of Health.
“More than 65% of the staff working at Shifa medical compound, including the surgical, maternity and medical hospitals, have not received regular salaries in more than 2 years,” according to Dr. Madhat Abbas, the General Director of the hospital. “Poverty prevails among our health professionals’ families.” The salary issue and lack of medical training opportunities has resulted in young and well-trained physicians searching for opportunities abroad and leaving gaps in some areas of medical expertise.
Dr Mahmoud Daher, head of the Gaza suboffice of WHO, mentioned as an example that of the two CT scanners in the Gaza Strip, only one, in the north, is in working order and must serve all patients. The referral of patients from the south increases out-of-pocket transportation costs, which can be unaffordable for poor patients, and burdens the remaining scanner.
Shifa is the largest hospital in Palestine, with more than 850 beds and a staff of almost 2000 employees. It is one of 13 Ministry of Health hospitals in Gaza facing common chronic problems of shortages of medicines and medical disposables, lack of staff, unreliable power and fuel supplies, and very limited training and capacity-building opportunities.
The WHO advocacy project monitors and reports on critical issues in the Gaza health sector, including patient access to specialized services outside Gaza and shortages, to provide evidence-based advocacy for protecting the rights of Palestinians to the highest attainable standard of health, according to international humanitarian law and international human rights law.