This will be short as I have to get ready for our early AM departure from Gaza. Perhaps more time to write tomorrow evening from the West Bank.
This morning I gave a lecture for the 3rd and 4th year Bachelor's Degree nursing students at the Islamic University. I talked on infant growth and development. My colleague, Kara, also presented--on Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Schizophrenia. It was such a fabulous experience. There were probably over 100 students in the lecture hall. The professor who coordinates the class and the Dean of the School of Nursing attended. It is amazing at how similar the nursing curriculum and discussion was to what we study (nursing process, etc.) The student questions and comments were very impressive. There was great discussion about my point to turn off the TV for infants!! The dean and the professor really endorsed the idea--some students balked and one asked the great question, "But what if a mom has lots to do, is it really bad if she lets her infant watch television for a little while?" Universally, we are all the same!!!
I will write more health care specifics soon. There is so much to say. Here I want to summarize some of the most important points that I come away with. I visited two NGO funded hospitals and their outpatient clinics, an UNRWA clinic, an UNRWA school and a government funded Pediatric Specialty care hospital. ALL are severely lacking in modern technology. For example, there is no MRI at either of the hospitals. The siege severely limits their ability to keep a consistent inventory of things like medications, specialized infant formulas, basic equipment such as operating instruments, catheters, vaccines. Only ICUs in the sites I visited had IV infusion pumps. They have things, but they are old, if they break, it may be a wait for the replacement or parts to get into Gaza. And, in terms of meds, the range of choices is severely limited. Although each of the facilities was quite old, they were spotless.
The other lack, whether in the medical facilities or the school, is manpower. There is no money in Gaza and the UN and NGOs are getting less donations as the world economy suffers, so the result is underfunded, understaffed health care and school facilities.
On the other hand, I cannot say enough about the talent I saw in every situation where I was. Doctors and nurses are well trained, though they talk of missing the chance to travel and meet colleagues and really keep up to date. Everyone has research ideas and would love to collaborate. The amount of creative energy is amazing here. I swear, Gaza without the internet would be sunk. It is their lifeline to the outside world.
This evening we had a lovely dinner and reception at the home of the founding sage of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, Dr Eyad Sarraj. We were honored and thanked, but most important, was the lively discussion--progressives discussing world politics, youth activists, committed health and mental health workers. You would be so proud to know these people. There is just absolutely NO resemblance to the Palestinians image portrayed on the media. As Dr. Sarraj said, "Every Palestinian has a story." I am so glad I have had the chance to hear some of them and will keep sharing my observations and impressions.