Waiting at Erez

erez clinic 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
erez clinic 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On Sunday, as Gazans were pulling more than 90 corpses out of the rubble, Israeli doctors and other medical staff waited inside the vast, empty terminal at the Erez crossing for Gaza's war wounded to come in for treatment. It was the first day of the cease-fire, and Israel's "Regional Medical Clinic for the People of Gaza" had just opened to great fanfare, with a news conference, politicians, banners and can-do spirit. That day, a total of two patients came in. One was an elderly Gazan woman who suffered chest pains on her way through Erez to Jerusalem for her regular chemotherapy treatments. Several hours earlier, her son had collapsed at Erez while waiting for her. The son was revived and sent to Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital, the mother to Jerusalem's Augusta Victoria Hospital for her chemotherapy. "Neither of them appeared to have been war casualties," said a medic. Magen David Adom got the order to build the clinic three days earlier; including time off for Shabbat, it was put together in 24 hours, said MDA director Eli Bin. The clinic is staffed by 30 gynecologists, orthopedists, ophthalmologists, dentists, X-ray and ultrasound technicians, nurses and other medical professionals. It's equipped to handle 30 patients an hour. Asked if there was any cooperation on the Gazan side - still run by Hamas - Bin said Israeli officials had "contacted someone in Gaza's Ministry of Health, and he said he supported the idea, that medical care has no nationality or religion." The foreign press was invited to the opening. Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri spoke in Hebrew and French. Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who's handling the government's humanitarian efforts in Operation Cast Lead, denied that this was a public relations stunt. "Israel knows how to fight terror," he said, "but it also knows how to be humane." In a pep talk to the staff, Bin said, "This is not going to be an easy mission. The eyes of the world are going to be on us. We're going to give these people the best care we possibly can, and they're going to go back to Gaza and be ambassadors for MDA, and show that Israel has nothing whatsoever against the people of Gaza. In our work, we are beyond the conflict." By Tuesday afternoon, five more patients had come in, including children needing cancer examinations, said MDA spokesman Yeroham Mandola. Anyone who was hurt in the war? "No," he said.