Hospitals in Beirut are overwhelmed with casualties, with four of its hospitals out of service due to damage by the explosion. Even under this already high level of strain, Firass Abiad, CEO of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, says the situation will escalate and the death toll will climb further.
“I think that it's very likely that those numbers will increase. What we are hearing today from some of the EMS services that are sweeping buildings, that are in the vicinity of the blasts, is that they are finding bodies,” he said.
“I’m not sure we will see more survivors, but I think we'll definitely see more bodies coming in.”
The crisis comes to the city and its hospitals amid already existing challenges.
Rafik Hariri University Hospital was already running low on its medical supplies due to the financial crisis in Lebanon when Covid-19 hit, Abiad said. And in this backdrop of a surge in cases during a second wave, came the casualties from Tuesday’s explosion, completely overwhelming the hospital. Now, it’s about to run out of supplies.
“We are very close. I think, you know, when this happened yesterday, we threw everything that we had in our emergency room. We were trying to treat as much as we can. But with all honesty, if help does not arrive soon, we will be empty-handed very shortly,” he said.
The financial crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and the explosion has put his team “in the middle of a perfect storm,” he added.
“I'm a surgeon who worked through the civil war and we've seen financial hardships before. We've seen blast injuries before. We haven't seen corona before but I think that all of these together… we do not seem to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The way the staff at the hospital has reacted to the crisis has been “silver lining,” Abiad said.
“When this happened, part of my staff were finishing their shift and going home. And they just came back,” he said. “They were filled with empathy toward the patients and kindness. And I think the only hope I see with all of this is the ability of the human spirit to endure these hardships.”