Archive for March, 2014

International Medics visit Ministry of Health Ambulance Depot

March 24, 2014

See Paramedics in Gaza for original post

Yesterday we visited the Ministry of Health’s ambulance depot in Gaza City. The government’s ambulance service runs alongside that of the Red Crescent, the Civil Defence, Military Medical services and some some small NGOs. The day-to-day emergency calls are predominantly responded to by the Red Crescent, but the Ministry of Health vehicles have the capacity to assist at busy periods and especially during conflicts.

They also run many community first aid trainings, health professional refresher trainings and have recently participated in some Majax (major incident) drills with other services. During quieter periods the MoH ambulances mainly run patient transfers, including taking dialysis patients to appointments, transferring between hospitals and taking patients to the Rafah and Erez border crossings for treatment abroad. They have about 30 intensive care ambulances and 67 first response vehicles, with 23 EMT-Is/nurses and 142 first responder (EMT-B) drivers. At present they are short of some nurses who have been recalled to hospital Emergency Departments due to staff shortages.

We had a long talk (and coffee) with a few different managers, who were all formerly on the road and will still get back into uniform in times of crisis. Then we had a look round some of the ambulances in the depot, talked to some of the crews and tried to get our heads round the huge issues facing the ambulance service here. In many ways, the ambulance service is a microcosm of Gaza in general. The complex problems facing it as a service are also the problems facing the wider population. There’s the huge issue of the Israeli blockade, now compounded by the political situation in Egypt. Then there’s the border closures, which leaves intubated patients waiting at the Erez crossing into Israel for hours while the medical team keeping them alive watch the oxygen and equipment batteries run down.

There’s the resulting scarcity of resources that means that the MoH ambulance have no non-rebreather masks (something that we use routinely and offhandedly back home) among many, many other items.  There’s the crippled economy, a government that can’t pay its workers on time and the resulting poverty and 50% unemployment rate. Then there’s the dependence on international aid, the lack of training opportunities and inadequate infrastructure. And of course there is constant tension and violence, with occasional vast and devastating military aggression.  In short, these broader issues combine in the health service to make the provision of even a basic standard of care exceptionally difficult.

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UK and NZ Paramedics arrive in Gaza

March 16, 2014

before our surprise call out

Kathleen and Gillian are paramedics who work on emergency ambulances in England and New Zealand respectively. Both have previously been involved in human rights work at home and abroad, including the West Bank. In true Defend The Rescuers spirit they have arranged sabbaticals, covered their own expenses, then fundraised to bring medical kit in person to their fellow rescuers in Gaza, arriving March 9th.

They will be regularly blogging while they are there, and are now accepting donations to help cover translation and incidental costs for the training they hope to deliver to local  medics whose access to skills updates is severely limited by the siege. Here is one of their first blog posts below – visit Paramedics in Gaza to become a follower and receive their news as they post…

Paramedics in Gaza: Waiting for something

We went to bed last night unsure as to what the situation would be today and had an uneasy sleep. Fortunately we awoke to news that while there had been airstrike retaliations by Israeli military overnight, no casualties had been reported. The situation has remained calmish throughout the day, although it appears that people are preparing for the worst.

next time we'll remember to write a list

donations get catalogued: next time we’ll remember to write a list

Our day has been busy. We had the total honour of handing over a donation of medical supplies to the director of the Red Crescent in Gaza, Dr Khaleel Abu Alfol. The supplies included two complete ‘response bags’ (/ jump packs) for ambulances and a stack of miscellaneous hospital kit including stethoscopes, sphygmomanometers, ET tubes, airway adjuncts, forceps, bag valve masks, suture kits,  thermometers and suctioning equipment. While it wasn’t a huge amount, we had managed to bring in equipment which is currently unavailable in Gaza; including suction handles and universal suction tubing which appeared to impress Dr Khaleel and his staff. These medical supplies will be shared through multiple departments in Al Quds hospital and will undoubtedly go to good use. At least one of the response bags will be used in an EMT training course which is beginning in a week or so. Massive thanks again to everyone who donated! We still have a stack of gear which will be shared with other organisations.

After drinking our fill of coffee we were sent off by Dr Khaleel for a tour of the nearby Red Crescent central ambulance station. We sat down for tea and an orientation with the station boss, going over their paperwork systems (essentially the same as in our own respective services) and getting to poke our heads in the dispatch room (two phones, one laptop). Then we were sent outside with a crew to have a look at an ambulance and their kit. Or at least we thought that’s what we were doing. Next thing we’re told to hurry up and jump in and we’re off under lights to a job. (more…)