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Doctors, Nurses Continue to Provide Care at Damaged Sirte Hospital

  • Al Pessin

The destruction of Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, Sirte, during Libya's revolution included significant damage to the city's main hospital, where a small crew of intrepid doctors and nurses continues to provide care.

In the wanton destruction of Sirte, even the Ibn a-Sina hospital was a target.

This is the hospital's main operating room. Dr. Abdulla Etbiga explains what happened. “The last operation was here. When we finished the operation, after maybe 30 minutes, 40 minutes, this happened," he said.

An artillery shell or rocket propelled grenade came through the wall. No one was injured, but the operating room is unusable and all of its equipment and supplies were destroyed.

Dr. Etbiga, a general surgeon, did all kinds of operations beyond his specialty during the worst of the fighting. And with most of the staff gone, he became the hospital's acting director. “We need everything on your mind, because we have nothing, or we have, but not enough," he said.

Dr. Etbiga says that during the worst of the fighting there were only a few doctors and nurses to care for the wounded. He says several people died because there was no anesthesiologist to help with operations.

Now, the situation is a little better, in part thanks to foreign doctors and nurses, like these from the Philippines, who are helping a young man who was burned in a gasoline tank explosion.

Many local staff members are still afraid to come back to Sirte.

But some volunteers are coming from other parts of the country, including Dr. Arish Taher Shafa from Tripoli.

When asked why he volunteered, he replied, "We have to. I think so. We have to. There is a shortage in this hospital, and we know that.

Concerning his reaction to the hospital, he said, "It's a disaster. I don't know. I have no time even to think about it.”

It is difficult for many people to talk about what happened here. Dr. Etbiga, who grew up in Sirte, is among those who can not put their feelings into words. “My mind? I think you can go with your camera, and the camera will talk what's on my mind," he said.

In the midst of this city with nearly every building destroyed, in this hospital with holes in the walls and no running water, the small medical staff is struggling to keep up with the needs of its 30 patients.

And even with the war over and few people living in the town's rubble, new victims continue to come in, many with injuries related to cleanup efforts or caused by the still live explosives that litter the city.