DURING THE SECOND WAR AGAINST MILITANT GROUPS IN SOUTHERN LEBANON, MANY HOSTILE MISSILES LANDED NEAR THE RAMBAM HEALTH CARE CAMPUS. TODAY, THE INSTITUTION IS BRINGING TO THE AREA THE FUTURE OF SAFE MEDICAL CARE IN TIMES OF WAR.
By Deborah Hemstreet
July 2016 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Second Lebanon War. From the perspective of Israeli civilians and healthcare providers, this war was notable because for the first time since Israel’s independence, the rules of engagement changed and warfare dominated the civilian arena. Missiles landed throughout the north of Israel resulting in more civilian than military casualties.
Rambam Health Care Campus, Northern Israel’s largest academic medical center and the only level-one trauma provider for the region, was inundated with civilians suffering from shrapnel wounds and shock, and critically injured soldiers flown in from the front. Physicians cared for the sick and wounded while under fire. Although plans were in place for a 300- to 750-bed underground facility for just such an event, construction had not yet begun. A make-shift shelter was established in Rambam’s basement. From July 12 through August 14, 2006, patients and staff worked under fire. Over 60 missiles landed within a 1-mile radius of the hospital, one on the street adjacent to the hospital, and two in the sea near older buildings housing cardiovascular and cancer patients, among others.
Professor Rafael Beyar, the hospital’s director publicly vowed, “We will not let our patients and staff again be vulnerable to deadly missile attacks.”
Professor Beyar led his administrative team in the largest hospital expansion project ever undertaken in Israel, with the primary goal of assuring safe and secure quality health care. The result has been the establishment of a new paradigm in patient safety, construction of the 2,000-bed Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital, the largest facility of its kind in the world. Disguised as an underground parking lot in peacetime, it can convert into a fully functioning hospital within 24 hours, with surgical suites, dialysis units, delivery rooms and more, including a day-care unit for the children of staff. In addition, a partitioned section of the underground hospital already serves as the nation’s center for highly infectious diseases.
With 31 entrances, 10 staircases, 9 passenger elevators, and underground passageways connecting to other buildings, the underground hospital is the heart of a much larger complex.
Safety and security is not just underground. With 31 entrances, 10 staircases, 9 passenger elevators, and underground passageways connecting to other buildings, the underground hospital is the heart of a much larger complex. Above ground is the new Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital with three departments fully fortified against conventional and unconventional warfare, a fortified emergency department and 24 fortified surgical suites. Elevators provide quick access to the underground for transferring patients. Linear accelerators—essential for cancer treatments—will be permanently installed underground, and elevators connect the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center to the underground facilities. A new cardiology hospital (pending funding) will include fortified departments and safe shelter for heart patients who are currently treated in unfortified older facilities dating back to the 1940s.
As funds become available, older facilities are being renovated and expanded, and a new Biomedical Research Tower is in the planning stages. The research tower will include hospitalization wards and clinical research facilities where new solutions for clinical problems will be transformed into actuality.
A MICROCOSM OF PEACE
Located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Haifa, Rambam Health Care Campus is a microcosm of peace reflecting the diversity of the city, where secular and religious Jews and Christians and Muslim Arabs live and work together in peace, striving for the betterment of humankind through health and healing. Rambam is also one of the regions’ largest employers and has a tremendous economic role in the region.
Affiliated with the Technion’s Faculty of Medicine, collaborative research performed at Rambam has already impacted the world of medicine. Medical devices now used worldwide, such as the PillCam, CARTO System, and General Electric imaging devices, were all developed via collaboration with Rambam clinician-scientists.
Named after the famous rabbi/philosopher/physician Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, also known as “Maimonides,” this extraordinary medical center is renowned for its accomplishments in clinical medicine, research, and care of trauma patients under standard and mass casualty situations. A Teaching Center for Trauma, Emergency, and Mass Casualty Situations (MCS) was established in 1999. To date the school has served more than 3,000 individuals from 61 nations. Many participants have since established trauma and MCS systems in their own countries, where no such system previously existed.
Professor Beyar gives credit for Rambam’s achievements to their professional staff, the support of the Israeli government, and donations from thousands of donors from around the world. Since 2006, US$305 million in donations have been received, turning Professor Beyar’s vow into a near reality. This medical center, critically important for the people of Northern Israel, still needs US$100 million to bring the vision to completion. Together, we can all make it happen.