Dr. Georges Ghanem, Cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer
We rolled out the disaster plan.
It was an apocalyptic scene. We started receiving casualties within minutes of the blast. We had at least one hundred injured in the ER room, which, to begin with, was a temporary ER with an 11-bed capacity, as the original one was undergoing renovations. The wounded flooded the waiting areas, hallways, the entrance and outside the hospital. Parts of our hospital, too, had sustained considerable damage.
Fortunately, our staff and patients were unharmed so, in coordination with key hospital leaders, we started to roll out the disaster plan: making fast logistical decisions, such as opening new floors or units, collecting information on all patients, identifying a person in charge of each unit, easing the pressure on the ER and opening the Operating Room to cater to urgent surgeries.
The scale of severe injuries is something I have never witnessed before, not even in field hospitals on the frontlines where I worked during the war. Every single patient had a story that far exceeded the immediate trauma of his or her injury. As we treated them, many were frantically searching for answers on their loved ones.
This explosion came at a very critical moment for the healthcare industry in Lebanon. Hospitals were and continue to be under grave financial danger due to the economic crisis in Lebanon. We are all struggling to secure basic supplies which are becoming more difficult to obtain due to capital control – all this as we transition between the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That said, we did receive timely aid from the UN and France so far, and we were also blessed to have volunteers – among whom were LAU students – who came and helped us clean up the rubble in the hospital.