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Personal Account — Visit to Gaza

Needless to say, a person my age with four children and aging parents has been through many clinics in his life, but none like this one. As I entered, I saw cleanliness, order, women and children happily sitting in the waiting area and in clinics, getting professional, complete and courteous service. The women doctor on duty was happy to interrupt her routine to explain to me the sophisticated homemade computer program they use in the clinic to maintain patient records. There is no paper used here she explained.

Once a patient comes in for the first time, we create a data base for them and an ID number is established. All pertinent and historical data is entered and a thorough examination is conducted. If lab tests are needed, they get through electronically to the lab technician and the request goes on a queue that appears in the lab, and the patient moves on to the lab. Should medications be prescribed, the same electronic communication takes place and the patient proceeds to the pharmacy across from the doctor’s clinic and receives the medications. All communication is electronic and all data is stored and archived for future reference. Patients receive quality service and they are off the door. I was impressed at first site with how sophisticated this all is, especially that the server of the clinic complex is a modest laptop computer, and electrical outage averages about 12 hours during the day and the center is hanging on the thread of a small generator during the continuous outages. It was amazing how much can be done with such limited resources and when all odds are against you!

I still was not entirely convinced and thought that these professionals knew I was coming and thus wanted to paint the most positive picture to impress me. So I proceeded to visit the various sections of the clinic including the expectant mothers section, the psychosocial section, and the office of the social worker, the laboratory, the pharmacy, and the site of the dental clinic which is still in progress. In the corridors, there were a few women waiting their turn to get into the laboratory, so I thought this is my chance to get the real story, straight from the end beneficiaries. I walked up to them and introduced myself and asked about the level of service they receive and if they come here only because the service is free. To my pleasant surprise came the answer from all three mid-aged women. “All clinics and medical centers in Gaza provide free services, but we only come here because we get quality treatment with respect and in dignity. We do not get that in other places”. I was speechless and moved to the next stop on the upper level of the clinic where a loud noise of clapping and singing was coming from.

We went up the few stairs to find a group of about 20 children aged 10-12 singing and happily dancing the traditional Palestinian Dabkeh. My host explained that the clinic staff is also engaged in psycho-social therapy sessions targeting school children severely affected by the war, and they bring them in, one group after the other to be engaged in extracurricular activities and help them be children again. I watched in amazement at the loving and caring spirit with which all this is taking place.

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