Palestinian medical centres and hospitals suspended their work yesterday after hospital cleaners went on strike over unpaid salaries which have been outstanding for five months, Quds Press reported.
Spokesman of the Palestinian Minister of Health in Gaza, Ashraf Al-Qidra, warned of the dangerous repercussions on workers and patients due to the accumulation of medical waste in treatment rooms.
Only emergency procedures continued to take place.
The Ministry of Health confirmed that 832 cleaners had not received salaries for the last five months.
Ayman Al-Sahabani, the head of Al-Shifa Hospital’s Emergency Department, warned that the continuation of the cleaners’ strike would undermine “even emergency services” and “carrying out scheduled urgent surgeries”.
He noted that this puts the lives of about 1,300 patients who are currently in hospital at stake, including patients in intensive care units, surgical operation rooms, obstetrics ward and the special care baby unit, nephrology patients, and surgical, internal medicine, cardiology, and oncology departments.
“We started partial strike a couple of days ago,” a spokesperson of one cleaning company said, “but after seeing no response, we decided to start a full strike today [yesterday] in all medical centres and hospitals.”
He said that cleaning staff had suspended a previous strike after a pledge by the Minister of Health Jawad Awwad to pay the outstanding salaries. “We received only one payment worth 800,000 shekels ($227,000) which was enough for one month,” he added.
The cleaning crisis would adversely affect 40 surgery rooms, 11 childbirth units, as well as 110 patients in intensive care unit, 113 infants in delivery units and 702 patients getting renal failure treatment, the health ministry said yesterday.
In its statement it added that 50 laboratories will be out of service due to medical wastage.
Gaza’s health sector has been forced to scale back its work as a result of the ongoing fuel and electricity crisis in the Strip. This has meant that 20 health centres and hospitals have been forced to partially close or cancel all none urgent procedures in an effort to conserve electricity to ensure the smooth running of emergency services.
Gaza has been under a strict Israeli siege since mid-2007. The siege tightened after the military ousting of Egypt’s first democratically elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 as the new regime tightened the closures and closed the Rafah crossing.
The situation deteriorated when the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began imposing punitive measures on Gaza in the middle of 2017.