Syrian underground hospitals overwhelmed as bombings intensify
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Bombing is in cities around Syria, leaving makeshift field hospitals overwhelmed with wounded rebel fighters and civilians. Our Observer, a volunteer nurse in the eastern city of Homs, describes the dire conditions patients are treated in.
Bombing is intensifying in cities around Syria, leaving makeshift field hospitals overwhelmed with wounded rebel fighters and civilians. Our Observer, a volunteer nurse in the eastern city of Homs, describes the dire conditions in which patients are being treated.
Wednesday marked the deadliest day so far in the 18-month-old uprising against president Bashar Al-Assad’s rule. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based watchdog group, 305 people were killed in one day alone – about two-thirds of them civilians. The group has counted over 30,000 dead since the beginning of the conflict.
The wounded are not counted, but as forces loyal to the president use more bombings to quash the rebellion, our Observer reports that injuries have become more severe – and more deadly.
WARNING: This video shows blood.
This is the latest video filmed in a Homs field hospital. It was taken on September 17. (This video was cut from its original length; the full video contains graphic images).
“We only have half a dozen doctors for the entire city”
Shoruk (not her real name), 25, lives in Homs. Before the conflict broke out, she was a university student; until last week, she worked as a nurse rotating through several field hospitals due to a lack of personnel. Female nurses have gradually stopped working at these hospitals as the bombardments have intensified. She continues to stay in daily contact with hospital staff.
Until recently, there were six field hospitals operating in the city. Today, there are only five, because one of them, in the neighbourhood of Khaldiyeh, was hit in a bombardment – three patients and two volunteer nurses, who I knew well, were killed.
We’re lacking in specialised doctors. There are only half a dozen trained doctors for all of Homs’ field hospitals. In the two hospitals of Khaldiyeh, where I worked, there is only a surgeon and an orthopaedist. The rest of the doctors [not counting those who work at the main hospital, controlled by the authorities] are either to afraid of getting arrested or simply can’t get to the field hospitals [which are located in neighbourhoods targeted by the security forces] from where they live.
As for the nurses, none of them are professionals. They’re all volunteers who knew nothing about medicine before the start of the conflict. Often, patients die simply because there are not enough of us to treat them all in time – especially on days where there are raids that result in dozens of wounded.
When we first opened the field hospitals, we saw victims of sniper fire as well as of some bombings, but these days it’s mostly bombings. They’ve intensified in the last few weeks. The worst injuries are those to major arteries. Without specialised doctors, they’re very difficult to treat. Patients often have to be amputated, or they die.
The intensifying bombings also mean it’s harder for activists to bring medicine and supplies from other cities. The hospitals are lacking in very basic first aid supplies: painkillers, sterilising products, anti-inflammatory drugs, syringes… And it’s getting worse.
The type of people treated at the hospitals depend on which neighbourhoods they come to us from. In some, all civilians have fled, and so the wounded are mainly anti-regime fighters. But in other neighbourhoods, women, children and elderly people are also falling victim to the violence.
The city of Deir Ezzor has also come under intense bombing this past week. In this video, a doctor pleads for help: "Look at this, for the love of God; look at all this blood! Look at it!"