In al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, there are only two stethoscopes in each department. Most doctors diagnose patients by putting an ear to a chest and listening the old-fashioned way.
“That would be the best-case scenario,” said Dr. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian doctor working in Gaza. “If someone’s full of blood, most doctors aren’t going to put their ears to the chest. So, doctors are making decisions without that piece of information.”
That’s a scary prospect, but stethoscopes and other pieces of medical equipment are scarce in Gaza. Thanks to a decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, many medical devices are banned from entering Gaza without special consideration because of Israel’s dual-use concerns, meaning that there are concerns such items could be used for military purposes. There’s also the issue of cost. A stethoscope can cost as much as $300, which is about what a doctor in Gaza makes in a month.