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Gaza’s Al-Shifa: A hospital on the brink

On the verge of collapse, Gaza’s biggest hospital faces darkness as fuel, water and medicine are running out.

Gaza’s main hospital is overflowing with both the living and the dead. The morgues are at capacity, and the bodies spill onto the street outside Al-Shifa Hospital.

Inside, hundreds of seriously injured people fill the hallways as the doctors decide which lives they can save. Men, women and children are among the wounded, and doctors work under immense pressure, knowing all services will soon grind to a halt when the backup generators stop working.

Israel’s siege on Gaza has meant no food, no water, no electricity and no fuel. As these necessities deplete faster than the hospital can cope, Al-Shifa is on the brink on catastrophe. While the hospital struggles to cope with arrivals of the injured, its staff also worries for other patients – 70 people on ventilators, hundreds receiving dialysis and 118 babies in incubators. Without electricity, they will die. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called the escalation of the conflict “abhorrent”.

“As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk. Kidney dialysis stops, and X-rays can’t be taken. Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues,” Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East, said in a statement.

We visit Al-Shifa’s neonatal intensive care unit. Most of the babies in incubators there are connected to mechanical ventilation. As the generators fall silent, the incubators will stop working, and most of these babies will die. Dialysis patients face the same fate.

The dialysis department at Al-Shifa treats 1,800 patients who receive dialysis three times a week. We meet some of these patients whose lives are not only threatened by the bombardments but who are also vulnerable if they are unable to receive this life-saving treatment.

The hospitals of Gaza have also become a shelter to many Palestinians, and Al-Shifa is no different. It is now home to hundreds of displaced people with nowhere else to go. With basic services and necessities no longer available, we hear from several who had no choice but to come to the hospital for refuge.

With so many dead, the morgues are overwhelmed. Undertakers struggle to identify and bury the deceased. When the generators stop working, the morgues will no longer be able to function.

No one knows the reality of what is happening in Al-Shifa better than the medics. They may be doctors or nurses, but they are also residents of Gaza. We meet these medical teams who tell us about the daily horrors they have witnessed since Israel’s latest assault began.