Dan Schwarzfuchs, who has been at the helm of the emergency unit in southern Israel’s largest hospital for nearly a decade, found himself facing an overwhelming situation following Hamas’s recent devastating attack. This onslaught, unprecedented in its scale, led to a surge of casualties that kept pouring in, stretching the capabilities of the medical team to their limits.
As he recounted the ordeal, Schwarzfuchs, aged 60, described how the hospital staff worked tirelessly. “The moment we finished treating a patient and transferred the person to the operation room or to intensive care, another wounded would immediately take their place,” he told AFP. The trauma unit, a vital part of the hospital, was inundated with patients, and they struggled to keep up with the constant flow of casualties. The emotional toll was exacerbated by the grim surroundings – the entire floor was stained with blood, requiring continuous cleaning.
The attack began with Hamas militants breaching Israel’s southern border on a Saturday, infiltrating through air, land, and sea to target civilians in the streets and in their homes. The scale of this assault was shocking, claiming more than 1,200 lives in Israel, prompting the nation to respond with relentless airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, where over 1,300 deaths were reported.
In Israel, more than 3,200 people were left wounded by the Hamas assault, with 870 of them arriving at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, located approximately 24 miles from the Gaza Strip. Schwarzfuchs and his medical team rushed to the hospital as soon as they heard two consecutive sirens on that fateful Saturday. It was clear that a war had begun, and the hospital staff rallied to respond. “Very quickly, all the employees of the hospital were here, more than 1,000 doctors, all the nurses, all those who should be there were present… and even those who were not meant to be there — the nurses on maternity leave, the doctors, came from everywhere,” Schwarzfuchs recalled.
The trauma unit at the hospital faced a relentless influx of patients, with the first arriving as early as 8:00 am. The pace was unlike anything they had ever encountered before, and the staff had to work at an unimaginable rhythm to address the pressing medical needs.
Since the attack on Saturday, Schwarzfuchs has been unable to leave the hospital and return home. The trauma unit treated a staggering 120 wounded individuals in the first 24 hours of the war, a number far exceeding their usual monthly average.
The nature of the wounds was also different from what they had been accustomed to. Most of the casualties suffered gunshot wounds, necessitating substantial blood transfusions. Additionally, the hospital had to provide care to young survivors from a rave party where Hamas perpetrated a massacre, leaving 270 people traumatized.
The hospital staff found themselves not only treating physical wounds but also providing emotional support to distraught family members seeking information about their missing loved ones. Many left without finding the answers they sought, adding to the heart-wrenching aspects of this tragedy.
Schwarzfuchs, who is also a doctor at the Alumim kibbutz where inhabitants successfully repelled Hamas fighters, noted that some of the patients brought in were people he personally knew. “It’s difficult to treat people who we know well. But it’s a bit normal here, we are a small country, everyone knows everyone,” he reflected.
Having served as an officer in the army before becoming a doctor, Schwarzfuchs is prepared for the challenging days ahead. He acknowledged that more wounded would likely arrive, and the medical team was resolute in their readiness to provide the care and support needed in the face of adversity.