Gaza: "I am a doctor, I am here to provide care. Patients also need to be listened to."

Dr. Hazem Abu Malouh is a Palestinian doctor working for a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic in Gaza, where patients return for post-operative care.

“In our clinical post-operative care, the MSF team is working under pressure, not because of the number of patients - we received 55 yesterday - but because of what they tell us. For example, to fill in the admissions register, I ask them their name, phone and address. But many have not any more address, they live in a school or they camp in a tent at Shifa hospital.

Burns on a little girl's face
It's very hard because we have no news from patients who used to come regularly for care. Or we see patients that tell us terrible stories like this little girl of seven who has burns to her face, caused by an explosion. She came for treatment. But when I asked her where her father and mother were. She said: they died. There is also this 32 year old woman who was slightly injured by shrapnel and was pretty good physically. But she was very shaken by the loss of her four brothers. Two of them just got married and all died in recent weeks. We listen to patients, they need to talk but they do not understand what happened to them.

Escaping in a wheelchair
We really go through a lot of emotions. Sometimes incredible things happen also. A patient we follow up for a while is in a wheelchair, he has an external fixator on each leg. When I learned that the city of Shujahia where he lives was under heavy shelling and that everybody was fleeing, I wondered how he would do. How to escape in a wheelchair? And then one night I was watching television that showed refugee families in a school and I saw him on TV! He was alive. It was great.

Rehabilitation with a physiotherapist
With the truce, we can again send cars to get patients home to get them here in the MSF clinic. We also receive new patients. Seriously injured or burned, they need after surgery to have their dressings changed or to do rehabilitation with a physiotherapist.

But during the war, as it was too dangerous to move, we organized a different setup.

We phoned patients to tell them we could not bring them to the clinic, but if someone in their family could come they would be given dressing kits (gloves, gauze, saline, or betadine, cream burns…). We have positioned dressing kits here at the Gaza clinic, at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis and with an MSF watchman who lives in the southern Gaza Strip. When someone comes to take a kit, it was explained to him how to use them. We distributed a total of 55 kits. Now hopefully we won’t have to use this system and the truce will be extended.”