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Gaza Strip gets first new hospital in a decade

GAZA , January 6, 2016

The Gaza Strip's struggling healthcare system will get some much needed help in 2016 after the first new hospital in a decade opened its doors in the territory last month and as two more foreign-funded clinics are set to launch this year.

After nearly five years of construction, with delays caused by fighting and restrictions on imports imposed by Israel and Egypt, the Indonesia Hospital opened its doors on December 27 and has since been treating more than 250 patients a day.

Built on a hilltop outside Jabalya, Gaza's largest refugee camp, it serves 300,000 people who live in the far north of the territory, an area hard hit in the conflict with Israel in 2014.

Heavy aerial bombardment of the densely populated Gaza Strip killed 2,100 people, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian officials, and caused widespread destruction. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

Funded by an Indonesian NGO, the $9 million facility has 110 beds, compared to the 62 beds of the old local hospital, and will make a big difference to the local population, said Muaeen Al-Masri, its head of media and public relations.

Gaza, home to nearly 2 million people, has around 30 hospitals and major clinics, providing an average of 1.3 beds for every 1,000 people, according to the World Bank.

By comparison, Israel has an average of 3.3 beds per 1,000 and the European Union 5.4 per 1,000.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry, said there was a shortage of doctors in Gaza, especially trained physicians and surgeons. Seriously ill patients must travel to Israel, Egypt and beyond if they need specialist medical treatment, he said.

Because Israel only admits death-threatened patients and Egypt keeps its border crossing with Gaza largely closed, hundreds of lives are at risk, said Qidra.

The largest hospital in the territory is Shifa, in the centre of Gaza City, with 750 beds. A vast facility, it is frequently overrun with patients, leading to shortages of medicine, equipment and staff.

"They (the new hospitals) will represent a great contribution to the health situation in Gaza," Qidra said. - Reuters




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