Shifa Medical Complex: Symbol of Gaza's health resilience

Ahram Online , Wednesday 15 Nov 2023

The Al-Shifa Medical Complex, nestled in the heart of the Gaza Strip, finds itself thrust onto the tumultuous stage of the Israeli war on Gaza for the 40th consecutive day. This bastion of healthcare, the largest in Gaza, has become a poignant symbol of resilience amid the relentless occupation aggression.

An aerial view shows the compound of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. AFP
An aerial view shows the compound of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. AFP

 

Established in 1946 during the British mandate on Palestine, the Al-Shifa Medical Complex was a humble collection of small booths providing medical care. Over the years, it evolved into the sector's largest medical institution, employing a staggering 25 percent of all healthcare workers in the Gaza Strip.

Spanning an expansive 45,000 square metres in the central western region of Gaza City, the complex boasts three specialized hospitals — Surgery, Internal Medicine, and Women and Maternity — with an additional neonatal intensive care unit. Complementing these are emergency, intensive care, radiology, blood bank, and planning units, collectively accommodating 500-700 beds.

Beyond its physical prowess, the complex stands as a lifeline for Gaza City residents and those from neighbouring areas lacking specialized healthcare facilities. In 2020 alone, it provided medical services to approximately 460,000 citizens, including emergency care for 250,000, conducting 25,000 surgeries and 69 kidney dialysis sessions, and overseeing 13,000 childbirth processes.

Employing a formidable workforce of 1,500, the complex boasts over 500 doctors, 760 nurses, 32 pharmacists, and 200 administrative staff. This workforce constitutes a quarter of the entire healthcare labour force in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Shifa bears witness to a turbulent past. After the British mandate, it fell under the Egyptian administration, weathering the storms of conflict and expansion for two decades. In 1967, the complex became a theatre of occupation as Israeli forces took control during the June setback, initiating a prolonged struggle between citizens and occupiers.

With the advent of the Palestinian National Authority, the hospital underwent metamorphosis, receiving financial support from Japanese and European entities. Development initiatives included new buildings and expanded facilities, transforming the complex into a beacon of healthcare.

In 2023, and until the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza, the complex stood resilient, albeit weathered. The external structure needed renovation as fragments of concrete clung precariously to ceilings and walls. The blockade's impact, coupled with a lack of financial support, left the rejuvenation effort in limbo.

 

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