Since 1 April, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Gaza have provided post-operative care to more than 500 people injured by Israeli gunshots, during the Great March of Return demonstrations.

The number of patients treated in MSF clinics, over the last three weeks, is more than the number they treated throughout all of 2014, when Israel’s military offensive was launched over the Gaza Strip.

MSF medical staff report receiving patients with devastating injuries of an unusual severity, which are extremely complex to treat. The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities.

Medical teams in Gaza hospitals prepare to face a possible new influx of wounded every Friday until the last 15 May, when the Great March of Return demonstrations reach the peak as planned by organisers.

MSF surgeons in Gaza report devastating gunshot wounds among hundreds of people injured during the protests over recent weeks.

The huge majority of patients – mainly young men, but also some women and children – have unusually severe wounds to the lower extremities.

‘Minced bones’

MSF medical teams note the injuries include an extreme level of destruction to bones and soft tissue, and large exit wounds that can be the size of a fist.

“Half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverised the bone”, said Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, Head of Mission of MSF in Palestine. “These patients will need to have very complex surgical operations and most of them will have disabilities for life.”

Managing these injuries is very difficult. Apart from regular nursing care, patients will often need additional surgery, and undergo a very long process of physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

A lot of patients will keep functional deficiencies for the rest of their life. Some patients may yet need amputation if not provided with sufficient care in Gaza and if they do not manage to get the necessary authorisation to be treated outside of the strip.

More staff needed

To face this massive influx of patients, MSF has reinforced its capacities, increased the number of beds in its post-operative clinics and recruited and trained additional medical staff.

A fourth clinic will open soon, in the Middle-Area region of Gaza, to provide patients with the necessary specialised care.

In response to the crisis, MSF has also deployed a team of surgeons, including vascular, orthopedic and reconstructive surgeons, as well as anesthesiologists to operate – or re-operate – on the more severe cases.

This team currently works side-by-side with Palestinian medical staff in Al-Shifa and Al-Aqsa public hospitals.

~MSF/Days of Palestine