NABATIEH, Lebanon: Nasra Hasan, a nurse at a Nabatieh hospital in south Lebanon, never imagined in her 28 years as a medical worker that she would witness a catastrophic situation like the one unfolding in the hospital she worked at as the coronavirus pandemic showed no signs of slowing down.
“Those who were treated and overcame the virus left the hospital but others whose lives were cut short never did,” she told The Daily Star from inside the patient monitoring room of the Sheikh Ragheb Harb Unviersity Hospital in Nabatieh.
“People need to understand that coronavirus is dangerous and fatal,” she said.
Lebanon, now in an 11-day total lockdown, has been facing an unprecedented surge in daily coronavirus cases since the New Year, with more than 4,000 cases registered on most days, as hospitals in Beirut and its outskirts reach maximum intake capacity. The same scenario is also being played out in Nabtieh, south of the country.
“Don’t take the virus lightly,” warned Ibrahim Yassine, who is an administrative employee at the hospital, but currently in the ICU as he has been infected by the virus.
In the span of an hour, the virus’ grim effects played near the entrance of the Sheikh Ragheb Harb University Hospital: An ambulance arrived carrying an infected patient as medical workers transported the body of another patient that had succumbed to the virus.
The Sheikh Ragheb Harb University Hospital’s coronavirus section has reached maximum capacity and it is impossible for it to receive any new patients.
The hospital’s emergency department has been instructed to refrain from taking in any more coronavirus patients since the virus ward is full.
Raef Diya, a public relations officer at the hospital, said that the coronavirus unit had been opened up only four months ago after a surge in cases was registered in the area. According to Dia, an additional coronavirus section is set to be opened up soon to increase the hospital’s intake capacity.
The hospital, currently operated by Hezbollah, is headed by Dr. Ahmad Kheil, who is also the head of the Nabatieh municipality.
The Intensive Care Unit at the coronavirus wing of the hospital currently has 16 beds. The hospital administers around 150 PCR tests daily.
“The situation is very dangerous,” Dia said. “The health care workers in the hospital are being overworked and we have reached a point where we simply cannot take in any more patients ... our situation is similar to many hospitals around the country now.”
Patients screamed in pain in the coronavirus ICU as they struggled to breathe even as they were hooked to mechanical ventilators.
A young man wanted his picture taken as a message to the public that the virus could also take away from a person’s youth.
“I don’t know how I can repay the doctors and nurses if I come out of this hospital,” he said.
Hundreds of medical workers emigrated from Lebanon in the past year as the economic situation worsened. Those who stayed are left with devalued salaries, but working twice as much in light of the public health crisis.
“Working as a nurse in these harsh conditions means that you sacrifice everything to make sure these patients are reunited with their families,” saidKawthar Shabib, a nurse.