An emergency drill has shown how the biggest medical centre in northern Israel can transform itself into a war-ready 2,000 bed underground hospital.
The exercise scenario at Rambam Health Care Campus imagined mass casualties from missile attacks fired on Haifa from over the Golan Heights, as staff showed how the whole hospital moves to an underground carpark in a matter of hours.
The drill saw logistical staff activate air purifiers and compressors, power generators and air conditioning systems, and deploy toilets and temporary showers, while clinicians practiced transferring patients and their accompanying equipment, including surgical instruments and even dialysis units.
“This cannot be simply a temporary shelter,” said a spokesman. “In the event of an emergency situation, the underground hospital is expected to absorb hundreds of oncology patients, pregnant women, dialysis patients and more, all of whom require ongoing medical care while the region is under fire.”
Rambam, which is northern Israel’s only trauma centre, said “lessons were learned” after the 2006 Lebanon War, when Israel and Hezbollah traded blows, with the loss of more than 160 Israeli lives.
“After two months of dealing with an impossible scenario of treating the sick and wounded under fire, we decided that this reality could not be repeated,” said Professor Rafi Beyar, director of Rambam.
“About five years ago, the underground hospital at Rambam was inaugurated. This facility is of strategic importance for the entire northern region. I hope we will never have to use it, but if the day comes, we will be ready for any scenario.”
Its underground ‘command centre,’ from where all emergency activities will be managed, was inaugurated just last month after a $1 million donation from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
Rambam’s Department of Emergency Medicine is also fortified, and will continue to function during wartime.
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