Doctors in Gaza Reuse Medical Implants Cut Out of Victims

Doctors working in Gaza have told The Daily Beast that the situation is now so desperate that they are being forced to use improvised surgical replacements—including medical implants taken out of other patients.

Many procedures, including childbirth, are being carried out without any anesthesia, or even painkillers.

Dr. Khalil Al-Digran, who works at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, told The Daily Beast that there has been “a complete collapse of the health system” and tens of thousands of patients need to be transferred out of Gaza for proper treatment.

Inside the war-torn enclave, he said, the shortage of medical equipment was now so acute that doctors in his hospital have often had to reuse titanium plates for setting bone fractures months after their initial use. These plates are sterilized and then used to treat fractures in other patients.

“We urgently need more field hospitals, and the limited fuel supply can sustain operations for only a few hours each day, threatening the functionality of many medical devices and endangering more lives,” he said.

Dr. Hossam Ouda, a dentist from Jordan, traveled to work at the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis. He said he encountered a patient with a jaw fracture needing surgery. He described how, due to the lack of specialized titanium plates, a dentist colleague, improvised by using a wire from a face mask for the procedure. “The bone healed, and the wound closed successfully,” he said.

A woman embraces another inside the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

A woman embraces another inside the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza on June 4, 2024.

Bashar Taleb/AFP via Getty Images

The Ministry of Health reported that over 500 of its staff have been killed during the ongoing war and many of the foreign doctors who volunteered in Gaza have now fled. The U.S. State Department confirmed last month that the U.S. Embassy in Israel had helped to evacuate 17 out of 20 American doctors still working in Gaza. Three chose to stay to continue providing medical assistance.

A larger group of Jordanian doctors have remained in Gaza, bravely working through the horror.

Ali Abu Qorma, who has been trapped in Gaza since his arrival last April, is a surgical expert specializing in endoscopic surgery and obesity surgery and is still working at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, the only hospital in Deir al-Balah, serving the central region of the Gaza Strip.

He said he arrived with a Jordanian medical delegation consisting of four surgical nurses, two anaesthesiologists, and other surgeons, but they are facing a huge shortage of medical supplies.

An Israeli air strike targets a residential building in Gaza.

An Israeli air strike targets a residential building in the city of Bureij in the central Gaza on June 3, 2024.

Bashar Taleb/AFP via Getty Images

“The health-care situation in Gaza is catastrophic. The health sector is completely collapsed. There is a severe shortage of medical staff. There are no surgical instruments for general surgery or orthopedic surgery. Even the gloves we need for operations are missing,” he told The Daily Beast.

“The closure of the [Rafah] crossing is a death sentence for patients who need to be transferred for treatment abroad. The medical supplies we brought with us have run out, and we were hoping that additional medical staff would join us, but the closure of the crossing prevents new medical personnel from entering.”

Younis Haj Saleh, operations manager for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), who arrived in Gaza on April 29, told The Daily Beast the situation was “far worse than anything imagined or seen on television, compounded by natural, sanitary, and humanitarian disasters.”

“Hospitals are overcrowded and dangerous, with displaced people staying among injured patients or in tents in the corridors, doorways, and rooms, making it unsafe to perform operations or for patients to recover. More medical supplies and staff are urgently needed,” he said.

Mourners gather next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes.

Mourners gather next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes during their funeral at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza.

Doaa Rouqa/Reuters

Dr. Aseel Jallad, an obstetrician and gynecologist, left her two children in Jordan to join the medical team on their mission to save lives in Rafah. “The suffering of the women is indescribable. They give birth without painkillers, luxuries that women around the world use but are unavailable in Gaza. Tears are shed in silence there, to the point that I would cry while helping women give birth. Their strength amidst such hardship is truly a miracle,” she told The Daily Beast.

She said most women arriving at the hospital look pale due to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. “Some have only one meal a day, and many suffer from severe anemia with levels as low as 4 [on a grading from 1 to 5], requiring blood transfusions instead of iron supplements,” she said.

Dr. Aseel said there were no tests available and limited medication. “Surgical supplies are scarce, for instance we have to work with whatever thread we can find to stop bleeding during surgeries. We utilize whatever is available to complete surgical procedures,” she said. “We repurposed COVID-19 protective gear as surgical covers. Gloves are re-sterilized for reuse due to their scarcity. Surgical tools are sanitized for reuse due to material shortages.”

“We were helping an average between 10 and 15 women to deliver birth daily without any anesthesia, with only one medical bed available, and if necessary, we would use a regular bed.”

There is a complete lack of resources for blood tests, making it impossible to determine if there are liver function issues or blood disorders. “There is also no treatment for hypertension and diabetes. Some women don’t even know their exact stage of pregnancy due to the lack of medical checkups,” she explained.

While preparing one woman for childbirth, Dr. Aseel said she had tried to lighten the mood by joking with her. Noting that the woman already had three children, she asked, “Aren’t you tired?” The exhausted woman replied, “No, I want more children, and we want a boy to replace the lives we have lost during this war.”

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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