By Nour Abu Aisha
GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) - Dozens of hospital janitors in Gaza protested Monday -- the second day of an ongoing labor strike -- to demand overdue salaries.
Gathered outside Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Medical Complex, protesters waved banners reading: "We demand our wages that we might live in dignity."
Officials at Gaza’s Health Ministry warn that the ongoing strike could threaten the ability of ministry facilities to function properly, including emergency rooms.
Even before the janitors’ strike, the ministry had been forced to suspend operations at several clinics and hospitals as a result of chronic fuel shortages.
"Peoples’ lives could be put at risk if this situation isn’t resolved," Al-Shifa General Director Medhat Abbas said.
"Due to the ongoing suspension of cleaning services [at hospitals], operation rooms have stopped functioning completely,” he added.
Patients’ lives could be at risk, he warned, “due to unhygienic conditions at hospitals and chronic shortages of medicine and medical supplies."
Abbas went on to urge the Ramallah-based Palestinian government to order its health ministry to meet the demands of the striking hospital janitors.
On Sunday, the Ramallah-based Health Ministry said the janitors’ strike posed a danger to public health.
In a statement, however, the ministry conceded that as many as 832 hospital janitors in Gaza had not received salaries for the last five months.
Gaza's health sector has remained in steady decline due to chronic funding shortfalls, caused largely by the poor relations between Hamas (which has run Gaza since 2007) and Fatah (which leads the Palestinian government in Ramallah).
Hamas accuses Fatah of undermining reconciliation efforts by -- among other things -- refusing to pay the salaries of the Ramallah government’s Gaza-based civil servants.
Fatah, for its part, complains it has yet to assume control of the strip, despite a formal handover in December -- part of a reconciliation deal signed last year in Cairo.
Home to more than two million Palestinians, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian embargo since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of the coastal enclave from pro-Fatah forces.