As of 18 February 2018, 860 surgeries had been delayed in Gaza amid labor strikes, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. Cleaning companies operating in hospitals in Gaza went on strike on 11 February 2018 to protest unpaid salaries. Some 832 cleaners had not received their salaries for months. The Ministry of Health reports that the crisis affected 40 surgery rooms, 11 childbirth units, 110 patients in intensive care units, 113 infants in delivery units and 702 patients getting renal failure treatment. Though the strike was suspended on 25 February 2018 to give a chance for officials of the Ministry of Health in Gaza and Ramallah to solve the crisis.
The strike led to the suspension of services at the main health facility in Gaza, Al-Shifa hospital, on 12 February 2018, which marked a first since the facility’s establishment. According to the hospital’s director, 200 scheduled surgeries were postponed for fear of contamination as a result of the accumulation of medical waste in the hospital rooms and departments.
Ultimately, the strike is yet another episode in the deterioration of Gaza’s health sector. On 8 April 2018, hospitals in Gaza declared a state of emergency due to severe shortages in medicine following the protests across the Gaza-Israel border. Earlier this year, health facilities were forced to scale back on delivery services as a result of the ongoing electricity crisis. On 6 February 2017, the Ministry of Health in Gaza said that generators in 16 primary health care clinics and three hospitals had shut down. To alleviate the crisis, humanitarian organizations provide donor-funded emergency fuel to vital health facilities. But this program is facing a severe funding crisis that threatens its continuity. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, available funds fall short of the bare minimum required to maintain fuel deliveries throughout this year. Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel must assume responsibility for the situation in Gaza and are once again called upon to take immediate measures to ensure delivery of quality services for all Gazans.