Benghazi hospitals collapse

2011-09-14 22:15
Benghazi - Benghazi hospitals face huge shortages as few antibiotics are left and cotton and gauze have run out, rattling the nerves of staff and patients alike.

Many Libyan hospitals had long suffered from a chronic lack of basic medicines and equipment but the situation steadily deteriorated during the popular uprising that began in February and saw veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi ousted last month.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, where the revolution started, medical facilities have been hit hardest by the crisis and their supplies are depleted.

Under the blazing sun, 30 doctors from Al-Jomhuria hospital have been protesting to demand the resignation of the director, but the management says there is little they can do to address their grievances and that in any case they they represent a small fraction of the 1 400 staff.

"We want medicines, lab equipment, beds and toilets. We want a functioning hospital for our patients," reads one of their banners.

The problem has a long history and since the fall of Gaddafi there have been accusations of corruption.

"The shortage has worsened and doctors are too tired to handle the situation," Salha al-Honi, a gynaecologist at the hospital, told AFP.

"We have been suffering from severe lack of sterilisation equipment for two months now. We do not have medicated gauze. What happened to the aid provided by Qatar and Turkey?" she asked.

Resources very limited

Doctors at the hospital complain that it is almost impossible to conduct medical analysis, while antibiotics are very hard to find and many drugs are missing, particularly for cardiac patients.

"The basics are not available. The doctors are right, but it is not the right time or place to protest," said Fathia Said al-Arabi, deputy director of the hospital.

Arabi said she has repeatedly sought the help of the new authorities but without any success, adding that .

Benghazi's Al-Jalal hospital faces a similar crisis.

"The hospital lacks everything. The supplies have been exhausted during the revolution and the influx of the wounded. We have no medical cotton and some drugs are out of stock," said hospital deputy director Jalal Mohammad.

He said non-urgent surgery "has been frozen and we are focusing now on accidents and casualties," which keep coming from around fugitive Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, where his loyalists continue to resist.

Nato said on Wednesday that its aircraft had hit nine targets around Sirte, seven around Waddan and one around Zillah, another oasis town to its east.

A trickle of civilians fleeing Sirte arrived in the town of Sadada to its west on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent reported.


"We hope things will work out soon. The pressure now has dropped," said Mohammad.

But anger is mounting.

On Monday, patients broke into the director's office to protest against the poor health services, forcing the management to shut the premises, according to witnesses and the deputy director.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is worried.

"We are concerned. The most problematic issue now is [lack of] anaesthesia. We are trying to make sure that laboratories can work again," said Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC spokesperson in Benghazi.

"The problem is affecting the entire country. In the [the southwestern city] Sabha, for example, people are dying because of lack of medicines."

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