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Coronavirus: Doctor warns of ‘incoming disaster’ in Gaza

Montreal, Canada – For years, Dr Tarek Loubani has been guided by a simple principle: all patients, no matter where they live, should have equal access to high-quality healthcare. But it is obvious to the Palestinian-Canadian emergency room doctor that this ideal is not yet a reality. “I practised in Canada and I practised in…

Coronavirus: Doctor warns of ‘incoming disaster’ in Gaza

Montreal, Canada – For years, Dr Tarek Loubani has been guided by a simple principle: all patients, no matter where they live, should have equal access to high-quality healthcare. But it is obvious to the Palestinian-Canadian emergency room doctor that this ideal is not yet a reality.
“I practised in Canada and I practised in Gaza, and I could see that my patients in Gaza weren’t receiving the same care,” he told Al Jazeera this week, as the blockaded Palestinian territory confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus.
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The global coronavirus pandemic has thrust stark global disparities in access to healthcare and medical equipment into the spotlight, as some countries are being ravaged while others are succeeding so far in staving off a crisis.
The Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places in the world, is expected to be among the hardest-hit areas, as experts fear chronic shortages and an already strained healthcare system will exacerbate the spread of the virus.
Medical workers in Gaza are preparing for the worst, said Loubani, who spent two weeks working there last month. “People were so terrified because they knew that they were living in a powder keg,” he said. “And even these two cases represent such an incoming disaster.”
3D printing supplies
An emergency room physician in the Canadian province of Ontario, Loubani has worked with colleagues in Gaza to address some of the problems plaguing the healthcare system for several years.
In 2015, he raised over $206,000 ($300,000 Canadian) to erect solar panels atop a handful of hospitals across the Palestinian territory and provide a more consistent supply of electricity amid frequent power cuts. He also founded the Glia Project, an open-source charity that produces 3D-printed medical equipment at a low cost. The group has helped deploy 3D-printed stethoscopes and tourniquets in Gaza.

Dr Tarek Loubani, a Palestinian-Canadian doctor, poses for a picture with a 3D printed stethoscope around his neck, in Gaza City [File: Khalil Hamra/AP Photo] 

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