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Conditions in Gaza hospitals remain in crisis

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Since the war began, reporter Ari Daniel has been keeping in touch with a couple of doctors in Gaza. They've been treating people wounded by the airstrikes pretty much around the clock in crisis conditions. Daniel reached out to them earlier today before Gaza lost both phone and internet service.

ARI DANIEL, BYLINE: When I called up Jamal Abu Helal on WhatsApp today, I caught him in the middle of his rounds to see patients. He's an orthopedic surgeon at the European Gaza Hospital in southern Gaza, which, like other health facilities in the enclave, is overrun with the wounded.

JAMAL ABU HELAL: We have in our hospital more than 200 injured patients. Most of them are open wound with fracture, multiple fractures. Just - yes, I will show you.

DANIEL: Abu Helal switches us over to a video call for a few seconds, long enough for me to see someone's lower legs sliced open. He'll dress the wound, but there will be no surgery for this patient, he says.

ABU HELAL: Because there is a lack of anesthesia equipment and even personnel. It's very difficult. I will show you another one.

DANIEL: This time I see a man with severe burns modeling his torso and legs. And then Abu Helal shows me something else - patients sitting and standing in the hallway. There's just not enough room for everyone. It's the same at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza - 550 beds but twice as many patients. Here's Dr. Mohamad Matar.

MOHAMAD MATAR: They put something like a tent in the ground outside the hospital in front of the emergency department to put some of the injured patients there.

DANIEL: Matar says that with so many wounded patients, surgeons don't have the time for complicated operations. So they must make difficult choices, like amputating a limb whereas normally they might try to save it. And he tells me these decisions often mean choosing the life of one patient at the expense of another. It takes a heavy toll.

MATAR: Even some of the doctors' medical staffs - they are saying, what is the benefit of the hell what we are doing now? We are not able to help patients anymore. We cannot do anything for them.

DANIEL: Matar says that an Israeli ground invasion would bring even more injured people to the battered hospitals of Gaza. There'd be bullet wounds and blast injuries from the tanks. Matar worries it would be more perilous for ambulances.

MATAR: Condition not good now, but we expect for the ground operation to be worse and more tragic, actually.

DANIEL: At night, Matar says, Al-Shifa fills with thousands of patients seeking refuge from the Israeli air raids. But daylight's no perfect shield. Yesterday Matar's father was killed in a bombardment. I'm trying to adapt, he says, but it's difficult. Ari Daniel, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ari Daniel is a reporter for NPR's Science desk where he covers global health and development.