Wounded Palestinians scorned in Egypt’s al-Arish General Hospital

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A Palestinian young boy, who was wounded in an Israeli air strike, lays on a stretcher in an ambulance before being given the permission to cross into Egypt at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip on July 12, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Said Khatib)

By: Mohammed Salem

Published Friday, July 18, 2014

Another episode of Palestinian suffering plays out again and political differences cast their bitter shadow over people’s lives. This is what is happening between Palestinians and Egyptians after Cairo allowed the entry of wounded Palestinians from the Gaza war for treatment in Sinai, in what it is being called a “humanitarian initiative.”

Sinai – They have been through harrowing times, where death felt closer to them than flesh to bone. All one can make out of their conversations are the sounds of women screaming and children panicking, mixed with deafening explosions that turn their homes into mounds of dirt on top of their memories. They are the victims of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip that has been going on for the past 10 days.

Some of them arrived at al-Arish General Hospital in northern Sinai to complete their treatment after the Egyptian government decided to open the Rafah border crossing temporarily to allow them entry. They came in ambulances in limited numbers hoping to find among their Egyptian brethren a warm reception and good treatment. But all they found was disappointment in a country whose media incites hatred against them incessantly.

Near the reception entrance of al-Arish General Hospital stands a young man by the name of Moayed Hamdan. He is the first wounded Palestinian to arrive at the hospital. Leaning on two crutches, he said in a defeated voice: “I need someone to buy this medicine from a pharmacy outside the hospital that the doctor prescribed for me a little while ago.” Moayed is in his 30s from Khan Younis in southern Gaza and arrived in al-Arish last weekend with a broken right ankle and underwent surgery to put the ankle back together with screws.

He is also the father of three children, the oldest is 13 at most. He said that he was taken out of the intensive care unit right after the operation, even though he needed to stay there. He told Al-Akhbar: “They took me out of the intensive care unit one day after the operation even though I needed more care and put me in a room that has about eight patients. The room is small and noisy around the clock.”

He said that when he asked the doctor to stay in the intensive care unit, the doctor snapped back: “I decide if you stay or leave, not you.”

Moayed added: “I felt intense pain after the operation. When I asked the nurse to bring the doctor, she said ‘he does not have time for you. You think that whenever you ask for him, he is going to come and stand by your side.’” As the pain increased and his screams got louder, the doctor came and prescribed a drug for him. When he asked the nurse to get it from the pharmacy, she told him that it is not available at the hospital and that he has to get it from outside. That is why he was standing at the door to see who can help him get it.

As to how he got injured, he said that when the Israeli army bombed his neighbor’s house, he rushed to evacuate his home and save his wife and three children. He returned to his house, however, to bring some basic stuff when suddenly Israeli warplanes bombed again. Without thinking, he jumped from the second floor to save his life. He adds: “I broke my right foot and so I crawled on my stomach for a hundred meters until I got out of the street. As soon as I reached a safe place, they dropped an F-16 missile that turned our house into rubble and randomly bombed five other houses.”

He fell silent for a minute, as tears streamed down his face, before he went on in an embarrassed tone: “My family and I live off humanitarian aid because I don’t work and on top of that my house has been bombed.”

He continued: “I didn’t expect this treatment from the doctors and the nurses at all. Even the security guard, I asked him to buy me the medicine from outside, after he brought it, he tooke 20 Egyptian pounds from me for running the errand.”

He pointed out that a number of injured people arrived here without escorts because of the limited number of people allowed to enter Egypt. Not to mention that a lot of them do not have enough money to cover all their needs on this medical journey that no one knows how long it will last.

The story of 24-year-old Atallah Eid is even worse. His liver and intestines are injured. He was lying on a bed with his hands covering his face, he then looked around with confused glances trying to find someone he knows. He said, in utter sadness: “All our lives we loved Egypt. We would say Egypt is the mother of the world and the loving bosom for Gaza and its people. I was so happy when I was told that I am going to Egypt to complete my treatment, but what I heard with my ears and saw with my own eyes after the bombing in al-Arish two days ago made me wish I died in Gaza and never came to Egypt.”

All of a sudden, an Egyptian mother of one of the people killed in the bombing of Dahiyat al-Salam neighborhood in al-Arish a few days ago came to the hospital and started yelling in Eid’s face: “May God punish you and Hamas... you killed my son.” She asked the hospital director to kick out the wounded Palestinians, but someone came and escorted her out.

Eid, who is from Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, said that he and his younger brother were hit with the shrapnel of a missile attack and was transferred to al-Arish Hospital because of the seriousness of his situation as the shrapnel cut his internal organs. He explained: “The doctors did an endoscopy of the abdomen and treated the intestines and the liver. The shrapnel cut my stomach.”

He added: “I received good care during the first two days of my arrival at the hospital but the treatment changed and the doctors and nurses started treating us with indifference as if they want us to know that we are unwelcome.”

The young man told us that he studies education at al-Quds University, that he dreamt of teaching future generations that were going to build Palestine’s future, before adding in a quiet voice: “I wanted to become a teacher to teach children but there are no children to teach, they die every second and turn into body parts.” Atallah too has no escort, he is alone at the hospital because the Egyptian authorities refused to let his uncle in. That is why he wants to leave the hospital quickly. “I want to return to Gaza as soon as possible and I don’t want to finish the treatment,” he said before remarking with his eyes fixed on the ceiling of the room: “I wish they didn’t bring me to Egypt... Its image would’ve stayed rosey in my eyes.”

In the room across from Moayed and Atallah’s room, 23-year-old Islam Abu Hatab is lying down connected to a respirator. Others point out that his is the worst case that came from Gaza because he has internal bleeding in his head due to a break in the skull. When one of the doctors was asked about his case, he said: “Forget it. He was done before he got to the hospital.” That is why Islam is connected to a respirator but no one is paying attention to him, on the grounds that his case is hopeless.

After persuading one of his relatives who is accompanying him to speak, he refused to give his name but said that he was allowed into Egypt because he has Egyptian citizenship from his mother. After recounting the details of bombing his house, he said that Islam finished high school but did not go to college adding: “We are a people destined to endure hardships and tribulations all the time... Islam wanted to go to college but he did not have a chance.” He stopped talking and cast a look at his relative lying in a coma.

He then got close to say in a whispering voice out of fear that one of the nurses would hear him: “The treatment is terrible at the hospital. They tell us to our faces, you killed the [Egyptian] soldiers at the border and killed the people in al-Arish.” He did say however that some nurses treated them kindly, brought them Iftar meals and even gave them money, “nevertheless, the treatment at the hospital is still the worst,” he insisted.

The story is the same with 25-year-old Abdallah Hassan who is from al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza. He says he arrived at al-Arish General Hospital on the morning of the bombing in al-Dahiya neighborhood in which civilians were killed and injured. He continued: “After doing tests, they transferred me to a room on the second floor. Then a nurse came and gave me a prescription for seven kinds of drugs and told me, ‘you need these drugs, get them from outside.’” He continued in a hushed voice: “I came from Gaza without a penny in my pocket, how can I get the drugs?”

Al-Akhbar went to Dr. Tarek Khater, undersecretary of the Health Ministry in northern Sinai. He said they are receiving the difficult cases through the Rafah crossing to treat them at al-Arish General Hospital and provide the medical services needed on a case to case basis, adding that “they are treated and given all their medications for free.”

But when we told him the stories we heard and recounted some of what the patients said, he responded angrily: “This can’t be, you’re trying to distort Egypt’s image... My orders were clear to the director of the hospital, Dr. Sami Anwar, to treat the injured well.” He promised to investigate the matter.

Al-Akhbar went to the office of the hospital director to ask him about the claims of the undersecretary and to tell him what the patients have been saying. His office manager asked us to wait a little bit to tell him but returned to say that Dr. Sami is not there. We tried to call him on his cell phone several times, but a recorded message kept saying: “This phone number is either closed or not available.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Same goes to millions of Egyptian citizens, they are treated like shit in their public hospitals with thousands of patients

It is easy to say, in theory, that totalitarian states depend on legitimacy as much as democratic states do: the support of the governed. This essay today reminds us that totalitarian states gain support by enlisting the public in the regime's crimes, promising benefits if the crimes are futhered or apologized for. Supposedly street gangs require new members to murder someone, so that they have no way back to their previous lives. I'm speaking of normally democratic nations there.
In a state like Israel or Lebanon, where there is no normal rule of law but only racism and its associated gangster-ism, where can the private person turn for a beacon of justice and order? How can healing come to a state which claims that sickness is health?
It begins with the citizens.
What about a democratic state like the US where the legal forms conceal illegal actions? It begins with the citizens. Speaking of health risks, it shouldn't matter if you have one broken toe or two broken legs: someone should see to your care. It begins with your demand to be made whole.

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