In rebel-controlled Goma, hospitals struggling to treat the wounded

A young war victim in Goma. All photos courtesy of HEAL Africa.
 
A week after the eastern Congolese city of Goma fell to M23 rebels, the wounded continue to flood local hospitals, and medical staff are concerned about a shortage of supplies. Two doctors describe the urgency of the situation.
 
Small hospitals such as the 20-bed North Kivu Provincial Hospital in Goma have been hampered in their work for the past week because of water and electricity cuts. Other medical centres have been able to receive help from surgical support teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
 
 
Goma’s main hospital, HEAL Africa, has 155 beds. It announced on its Facebook page that it would treat anyone transferred to its hospital without charge. According to the latest count, 111 war casualties are being treated at this hospital while doctors keep searching all over town for other victims.
 
It’s estimated that about 100,000 people have been displaced due to the fighting between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army. Many have headed to camps in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
 
According to Ugandan officials, the leader of the M23 rebels has agreed to withdraw its troops from Goma. With no more specifics announced, DR Congo's government spokesman, Lambert Mende, cautioned that the government would "wait and see" whether this promise would be kept. 
 
 
 
Contributors

“We will soon run out of medicines”

Luc Malemo is a surgeon at the HEAL Africa hospital.
 
We’re lacking in equipment. Some patients can no longer be treated. We also haven’t got enough surgeons who specialise in thoracic surgery to treat those who have been shot in the chest. We also need more cardiopulmonary monitors to support the patients’ breathing, as well as external fixators to treat open fractures. But the absolute priority is to have ambulances to transport patients to larger medical centres, notably in Rwanda.
 
Due to the electricity cuts, we have had to use generators, and have given priority to patients who need the help of machines to survive.
 
Most of the patients were shot in the head or legs. We have had three deaths so far.
 
“If we need to evacuate a patient to another hospital, they are more likely to die than to survive”
 
The University of North Carolina and Doctors Without Borders have promised to give us more medication, but we don’t know when that will arrive. Between now and the middle of this week, we will run out of the supplies that we have.
 
The hospital is neutral ground. We welcome everyone, regardless of their political views or nationality. We haven’t yet spoken to the M23 rebels about how to safely evacuate the severely wounded to bigger hospitals. As it currently stands, if we need to evacuate a patient to another hospital, they are more likely to die than to survive. Ideally, we would need a safety corridor.
 

“The M23 doesn’t care about wounded civilians”

Patrick (not his real name) is a doctor at the North Kivu Provincial Hospital.
 
The M23 fighters don’t care about wounded civilians. What they’re interested in is taking soldiers and police officers that come to us, and take them to the Katindo military hospital, where they will be ‘educated’.
 
 
Our hospital is full. Our director disappeared for the first six days after Goma was captured. He hid in his home to protect his family. We only have two doctors, a few nurses and three interns to look after more than 20 people. Given the situation, we are really understaffed. Most of the cases are gunshot wounds, but we also have nine children who were trampled on when people fled the fighting in a panic. They’ve suffered multiple fractures.
 
Since we have water, and electricity returned on Sunday, the situation for patients has improved slightly. But we have only received a single delivery of medicines this past week. That’s not enough.
 
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron).
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