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Three Florida health workers share their experiences volunteering at a Gaza hospital

A map of the Gaza Strip outlined in red.
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Three Florida physicians shared their experiences from volunteering for two weeks at the European Hospital in Gaza.

Two doctors and a nurse spoke at Voices from the Frontline, an event hosted by Alachua County Healthcare Workers for Gaza.

On Saturday, three Florida medical providers spoke at Voices from the Frontline, an event hosted by Alachua County Healthcare Workers for Gaza.

Dr. Bashar Alzghoul, Dr. Waleed Sayedahmad and nurse Rana Mahmoud shared their experiences from volunteering for two weeks at the European Hospital in Gaza.

The three from Florida went to Gaza with nine others through the support of the Palestinian American Medical Association and Jordan American Physicians Association.

They brought 180 suitcases filled with medical supplies due to the lack of resources in Gaza.

Mahmoud, from Tampa, shared that the physicians witnessed five miles of aid trucks unable to cross the border of Gaza, and felt it justified the amount of luggage she chose to bring.

“The reason why I decided to take those 30 bags is because I know that that is a guaranteed aid that they're going to receive,” Mahmoud said.

Despite previously working under a crisis situation after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Sayedahmad says he has never seen injuries and misery like he witnessed in Gaza.

“Gaza has no comparison, does not compare to anything I have seen throughout my almost 22 years of clinical practice,” said Sayedahmad, an anesthesiologist in Parkland.

Alzghoul said Gaza is suffering from a health care system collapse, and there are not enough resources or providers to treat the number of casualties that people face. Before the Hamas-Israel conflict, Rafah city had a population under 200,000 people.

“Well, when we went there, there were around 1.5 million displaced refugees with only one or two hospitals serving them,” said Alzghoul, a pulmonary and critical care specialist with the University of Florida College of Medicine,

Mahmoud said the European Hospital had 200 beds, but there are over 15,000 refugees living in the hospital.

The physicians saw a lack of infection control due to the hospital being overcrowded as well as the lack of resources.

Alzghoul says the physicians treated more children than they expected.

“Out of these 30 beds that were dedicated to ICU (intensive care unit) at any single point, 15 or 16 of them were actually children. I never imagined myself intubating a 3-year-old, just a little bit younger than my son,” Alzghoul said.

Mahmoud spoke with many children in Gaza and learned their stories. She says it is not just the call of medical providers. but parents as well to advocate for these children.

“These children's lives matter. It really does matter, and they're just not a number,” Mahmoud said.

Tess Tumarkin, a nurse who is a part of Alachua County Healthcare for Gaza, said the organization has been asking the Alachua County Commission to pass a cease-fire resolution since the start of January.

“We wrote a letter to the county commission and had within, I think, a single day, like 80 people had signed onto it. And now we're at over 200 health care workers in the county asking for a cease-fire resolution,” Tumarkin said.

The physicians say that a cease-fire is the only solution to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

They encouraged readers to write letters to government representatives and donate to reputable organizations to continue aiding Gaza.

Copyright 2024 WUFT 89.1. To see more, visit WUFT 89.1.

Maria Avlonitis