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Heartbreak of Inverness doctor as hospitals in Gaza come under fire

By Val Sweeney

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Dr Salim Ghayyda awaits news from Gaza where fierce fighting continues.
Dr Salim Ghayyda awaits news from Gaza where fierce fighting continues.

From his home in the Highlands, consultant paediatrician Salim Ghayyda has watched in despair and horror as hospitals in Gaza have come under bombardment.

Dr Ghayyda has spoken of his desperation in trying to save his family who are trapped in grim living conditions in a refugee camp as they find themselves caught up in the intensifying Israel-Hamas war.

But he also has a personal connection with both Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza's main hospital, and Nasser Hospital as well as the Al-Nasser Children's Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, having worked at all three as a young doctor after completing his medical studies.

"It is just heartbreaking to see a place where you once worked being obliterated," said Dr Ghayyda, who last visited Gaza a year ago.

"Hospitals must never be a target. I don't honestly understand the logic. I cannot think of any justification for it.

"It is a place of sanctity where injured and sick people go to get treated."

He said seeing images on social media of the bodies of pre-term babies had been particularly distressing.

The British Palestinian, who has worked at Raigmore Hospital for the past 11 years, was born and grew up in Gaza.

He studied medicine in the former Soviet Union after taking up a scholarship as there was no medical school in Gaza at the time and his father could not afford to send him abroad.

The collapse of the Soviet Union meant a move to Siberia part way through his studies as his original location became part of Ukraine.

In 1997, he returned to Gaza and did his first year of training at Al-Shifa Hospital. His first post of work was then in the accident and emergency department and intensive care unit at Nasser Hospital before he decided to become a paediatrician and worked Al-Nasser Children's Hospital for four years.

He moved to the UK 21 years ago and worked in hospitals in London, Liverpool and south west England.

When a chance to work at Raigmore Hospital came up, he moved to the Highlands.

He and his wife, who works as a money adviser for the Citizens Advice Bureau and as a refugee support worker, regard the Highlands as home.

They have three children – a son who is a software engineer in the Highlands, a daughter who is studying in Edinburgh to be a dietician and another daughter who is in secondary school.

The constant worry for his family in Gaza has taken its toll on Dr Salim Ghayyda.
The constant worry for his family in Gaza has taken its toll on Dr Salim Ghayyda.

Dr Ghayyda is currently living in daily fear for the lives of his elderly parents, brothers and sisters along with his extended family who are paying the human cost amid the continuing Israel-Hamas war.

Having being uprooted several times, a total of 31 family members are trapped in grim living conditions – many in self-built tents – near Rafah, the border crossing with Egypt.

The constant anguish and sense of hopelessness has taken its toll on Dr Ghayyda who wants to see an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

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