Gaza struggles to contain COVID-19, as hospitals ‘days away’ from running out of beds.

December 4, 2020
"We have nothing we can do if critical cases exceed the number of beds we have," Yousef al-Aqqad, the director of the European Hospital in Gaza says

Palestinians wait to in line outside a post office in Gaza for cash grants on December 3, 2020. The Qatari government began disbursing $100 to poor families on Thursday.

Tareq S. Hajjaj writes in Mondoweiss December 4, 2020

Health officials in Gaza say they are days away from running out of hospital beds, sounding the alarm as coronavirus cases continued to radically spike over the last week, sending younger patients to critical care wards for the first time.

Less than three months ago there were under 100 total confirmed cases in Gaza. Today there are over 10,000 active cases, and the positivity rate is over 30%, making Gaza home to the second highest positivity rate in the world, outpaced by only Bolivia. 

With Gaza’s scant resources, only 3,000 tests are run each day, and tests are only available to Palestinians who are already quarantined either in an isolation facility for returning travelers, or for symptomatic patients in treating hospitals.

“Any day now, we will no longer be able to receive critical cases,” head of the European Hospital, Dr. Yousef al-Aqqad, said. He runs the only dedicated facility for critical cases in Gaza. In total around 2,000 COVID-19 patients are being treated between his hospital and one more, or in isolation facilities including schools and hotels.

His hospital has a total 150 ICU beds, but only 100 of them are fully equipped, “we can’t use them all due to the lack of the instruments for the ventilators, like monitors that determine the oxygen level.”

According to al-Aqqad, weeks ago there were only seven people in the ICU and his hospital was equipped with a total of 20 functional ICU beds. As of Monday, 90% of his ICU beds are full.

“Before autumn, it was older people with chronic diseases who needed ICU care and oxygen ventilators, but now the patients are mostly young without per-existing conditions.”

According to the Health Cluster, an international consortium of 70 organizations and UN agencies working with local health officials, prior to the pandemic Gaza had 152,426 patients with chronic conditions out of a population of 2 million. By comparison, in the West Bank the same agency found 41,780 have chronic conditions for a population that has 700,000 more than Gaza.

Since mid-March, more than 100,000 Palestinians have tested positive for the coronavirus, of whom 23,023 live in Gaza. The virus has taken the lives of 873 Palestinians, including 122 in Gaza. With temperatures dropping due to the winter, the fatalities are expected to escalate, and the plans to control the virus are growing more dismal.

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