Ramallah: Since the imposition of the ongoing eight-year-old siege on the Gaza Strip, living conditions have declined substantially and medical services in the coastal strip are suffering serious shortages of medicines, supplies and food for patients, an official has claimed.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Ashraf Al Qudra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said Gaza-based hospitals and primary medical centres lack 32 per cent of the medicines they need and the shortfall is greatest for drugs used to treat chronic diseases.

In addition, medical facilities in the strip do not have 38 per cent of the other medical supplies they need, with the deficit particularly affecting supplies for operating theatres and intensive care units.

“Gaza is at a crossroads and the situation is extremely dangerous,” he said. “We have been begging for bread from charitable organisations on a daily basis to feed patients admitted to Gaza hospitals.”

Dr Al Qudra said that medical transfers to Israeli hospitals have been suspended and critical medical cases are either referred to Egyptian or West Bank hospitals. “Because of the almost permanent closure of Rafah crossing, which connects Gaza to Egypt, Gaza patients are left with the West Bank hospitals which are accessed via the Beit Hanoun Crossing [Erez Crossing]. Gazans do not usually use this Israeli- controlled crossing,” he said. “People are dying in Gaza and we have nothing in hand to help them.”

In the past years, 14 Gaza-based hospitals and 54 primary medical centres have suffered a shortage of nurses because 400 nurses have quit or retired, and typically Gaza-based medical services need about 800 new medical employees annually.

In the absence of support from the Palestinian consensus government the entire medical service “is about to collapse and just fall apart,” he warned. “Something should be done on all levels to save medical services in the Gaza Strip, which need 20 million shekels (Dh19.2 million) monthly to remain functional.”

Since the Palestinian consensus government was put in place more than a year ago, no budget has been allocated for the Gaza Health Ministry. “The government has been providing West Bank hospitals with unbelievable budgets and building new hospitals there, but the Gaza hospitals have totally been left aside,” Dr Al Qudra alleged.

He said that the Gaza Health Ministry has been left with the option of integrating medical facilities to cut expenses at the risk of reducing the quality of medical services provided to Gazans.

Dr Al Qudra said that most medical staff in Gaza are not able to work their shifts as they do not have the financial resources to cover their transport to and from work. “The medical situation in Gaza is so complicated that it is believed to be unsolvable,” he said.