Gaza patients at grave risk as Israel bans diagnostic medical equipment

2 Feb
Palestinian medics in Gaza staged a protest of ambulances along the boundary fence with Israel recently. [Arab News video]

‘Slow death’: Gaza’s health workers protest Israeli blockade

The Palestinian health ministry says Israeli import restrictions on medical equipment are putting people’s lives at risk.

Amid increasing tensions in the occupied West Bank and Israel, health workers in Gaza have been fighting their own struggle to procure vital medical equipment for hospitals in the beleaguered coastal territory.

[Recently] a convoy of about 25 ambulances from Gaza drove along the Israeli border to protest import restrictions on medical equipment that the Palestinian health ministry says are crippling hospitals in Gaza.

Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Asraf al-Qudra calls for ‘direct pressure on the Israeli occupation’ to end the restrictions on the import of medical supplies to besieged Gaza. [Middle East Eye video]

“Preventing the entry of medical devices means the slow death of Gaza patients,” read a banner on one of the ambulances in the convoy. “Medical equipment is crumbling,” another said.

As part of its fifteen-year land, sea and air blockade of Gaza, Israel bans imports of so-called dual-use goods – items that it says could be used for military purposes.  

According to Ashraf al Qudra, a spokesman for the health ministry, the demonstration came after Israel prevented four mobile X-ray machines from entering Gaza, according to the health ministry, in addition to equipment used to treat stroke patients and those in intensive care.

A view of a broken X-ray machine at Shifa hospital in Palestine’s Gaza, January 5, 2023. ( Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters )

The restrictions “expose patients of oncology, heart, strokes, complex fractures and intensive care to health risks,” Qudra said, adding that importing spare parts for old machines was also an issue.

Israel has refuted the criticism and said that Hamas and other Palestinian groups were “systematically and cynically taking advantage of humanitarian and civilian shipments of equipment and goods for terrorist purposes”.

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said X-ray machines were on its list of items which could have a military purpose but medical requests were considered.

Over the past year, Israel has “approved dozens of requests for X-ray machines shipments into Gaza, including both new machines and spare parts for existing ones,” COGAT said.

No access to life-saving care

A joint report published earlier this year by the UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Gaza’s Al Mezan Center for Human Rights highlighted how “stifling restrictions” and “repeated military attacks” have damaged Gaza’s medical system, “routinely” stopping patients from accessing “essential and potentially life-saving care”.

The report points out that medical equipment and components are frequently blocked from entering Gaza, and healthcare staff are routinely prevented from travelling out of the besieged enclave for training.

Many vital services are therefore unavailable inside Gaza, and patients must be referred to hospitals in the occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, or abroad. But in 2021, the report points out, 36 percent of more than 15,000 requests to the Israeli authorities for health travel permits were either rejected, delayed or received no response.

Densely-populated Gaza is home to some 2.3 million residents, the majority of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Link to original post:

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

Hazem Balousha, Arab News, January 2023

  • Human rights group warns of serious repercussions from continued ban on life-saving devices

GAZA CITY: The Palestinian Ministry of Health has accused Israel of banning necessary medical equipment from entering Gaza Strip hospitals for more than a year.

The Hamas-run ministry in Gaza said the lives of patients in Gaza are at grave risk because Israel is not allowing the entry of medical equipment.

The ministry said that Israel’s ban on medical diagnostic devices was a violation of Palestinians’ right to treatment, which is guaranteed by international humanitarian law.

Medhat Abbas from the Ministry of Health highlighted the crisis at the end of a demonstration in which dozens of ambulances and medical teams participated at the Erez Crossing, at the northern end of the Gaza Strip.

They drove along the road parallel to the eastern border until they reached the location where the Great Return March demonstrations took place a few years ago, east of Gaza City.

Abbas said the Israeli occupation has prevented the entry of interventional catheter devices, digital X-ray machines and mobile X-ray machines.

The ban is not limited to medical equipment needed for hospitals in Gaza. It is also preventing the entry of spare parts for broken equipment in Gaza and the transfer of equipment for repair outside, Abbas said.

He accused Israel of exposing patients in intensive care and those with cancers, heart diseases, strokes and complex fractures to health risks as they are being deprived of devices that identify health problems and the required medical interventions.

The Ministry of Health called on the relevant bodies to put direct pressure on Israel to bring in medical and diagnostic equipment and spare parts for broken equipment to save patients in the Gaza Strip from the “guillotine of the occupation and the blockade by providing for their full treatment needs.”

Patients are forced to transfer to other hospitals outside the Gaza Strip, including hospitals in Jerusalem or the West Bank, and some in Egypt and Jordan, in order to obtain a diagnosis before starting treatment due to the lack of medical equipment.

Samir Abu Al-Enein, 55, said he had to wait for two months until he obtained a medical referral and an Israeli permit to travel to Jerusalem for examinations at Augusta Victoria Hospital.

“I was diagnosed with cancer several months ago. Before that, there were suspicions on the part of the attending physician, but he was unable to identify the disease until after I got a diagnosis in Jerusalem, and I had to wait a long time until I got the necessary papers,” Abu Al-Enein told Arab News.

He added: “It is not enough that we suffer from diseases. We suffer from waiting also and the fear that treatment will not be available. Many of the medicines that the doctor prescribed for me are often not available, and I have to wait a long time until they are.”

Obtaining a medical referral to hospitals outside the Gaza Strip involves a long series of bureaucratic procedures.

Patients also suffer while waiting for a pass from Israel to Jerusalem and the West Bank, with dozens of them facing Israeli security bans.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights warned of the serious repercussions resulting from Israel’s continued block on important equipment, which is needed to save the lives of thousands of patients in Gaza Strip hospitals.

“The primary responsibility for providing medical supplies to the population of the Gaza Strip lies with the Israeli occupation, according to Articles (55) and (56) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949,” said the center.

More than 2.3 million people in Gaza “depend on governmental health facilities to receive treatment, while these facilities suffer from serious deterioration as a result of the blockade policy imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on the Strip for more than 15 years,” it said.

The center added that the “internal Palestinian division resulted in the fragility of the health system, and a permanent shortage in the list of essential medicines and medical devices, in addition to the shortage of specialized medical staff.”

Short URL:

%d bloggers like this: