Serious shortage of hospital supplies threatens lives of newborn babies in Gaza

Baby deaths can be reduced by 80% if necessary incubation material is provided, health official says

At Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest and most central medical center in the Gaza Strip, dozens of babies face inevitable death every month. The hospital’s Special Baby Care Unit (SCBU) is suffering from a complex crisis due to the dire lack of necessary medical equipment and a shortage of medical personnel.

Every month, between 1,200 and 1,300 babies are born at Al-Shifa hospital, many of whom are from high-risk pregnancies and require special care, according to Dr Nasser Bulbul, head of the Special Care Unit. for babies in Al-Shifa.

Bulbul told The Media Line that the growing number of births in high-risk categories, at least five a day, weighs on the hospital and its medical staff, who are struggling to save babies amid limited resources. .

“Our biggest and biggest problem is the lack of baby incubators and especially intensive care incubators. With only 16 IC incubators available in the unit, the hospital’s deficit rate has reached over 45%, ”he said.

The point is, nothing can help if hospitals lack the most essential equipment and drugs.

To fill the void, doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit are forced to use open beds in the general intensive care unit for critically ill newborns instead of IC incubators. Bulbul said this puts the lives of these babies, who are more prone to infection, at high risk due to the open, non-isolated environment.

Mustafa Albalawi, is the father of a premature baby girl who was born at 26 weeks. He told The Media Line that his baby, who is currently in critical condition at the NICU, “suffers from severe growth and breathing difficulties and needs a special care incubator with certain specifications – which doesn’t. is not available in Gaza – for a period of time until it passes the critical stage.

Despite the bitter reality, Albalawi hopefully waits for a miracle to happen and saves his daughter.

Unfortunately, others are not fortunate enough to hope for miracles. Bilal Abuilba is a Gazan father who lost one of his premature twins in Al-Shifa due to lack of medication to treat sepsis or blood infection.

He told The Media Line that “the doctors at Al-Shifa Hospital have done all they can to save my baby. But the point is, nothing can help if hospitals lack the most essential equipment and drugs. Thank goodness I still have a baby.

Premature infants are cared for in incubators in the Special Baby Care Unit at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. (Hazem Albaz / The Media Line)

Bulbul pointed out that over the past five years, “the acute shortage of medical equipment, especially incubators, at Al-Shifa Hospital results in the deaths of almost 10 babies per month on average. However, this number can be reduced by 80% if the necessary incubation material is provided. He says at least 12 special incubators are urgently needed to reduce the hospital’s deficit, otherwise the number of newborn deaths will remain high.

In times of pressure, Al-Shifa’s neonatal service transfers new cases to another local hospital. “Sometimes we transfer babies to al-Quds hospital in central Gaza. There are 10 incubators there, which helps a lot when we are out of options. Still, the transfer measures can take a long time and this definitely affects the baby’s chances of survival, ”Bulbul said.

Another problem that Al-Shifa faces, according to Bulbul, is the lack of medical personnel. “We need a total of six doctors and nearly 20 nurses at least to complete the [NICU’s] need medical staff, ”he said.

Bulbul believes the only way to alleviate the crisis is to “provide funds for medical equipment; the expansion and development of the capabilities of the whole unit which has been derailed for years due to the ongoing Israeli blockade which continues to impose heavy restrictions on the entry of equipment; and affecting the general economic situation in Gaza.

In total, hospitals in Gaza have an immediate need for 30 intensive care incubators to overcome the urgent crisis and 120 incubators to achieve stability, Bulbul concluded.

Lillian L. Pena