On High Alert

After so many suicide bombings and on again off again intifadas, a semi-normal quiet had settled on Israel, and the summer of 2006 showed hope for being a great tourist season and a joyous summer holiday for Israeli children.

But Hamas and the Hezbollah had other plans--as terrorists so cruelly often plot--and Israel found herself in the midst of an unwanted war with three Israeli soldiers kidnapped behind enemy lines, Israeli civilians killed by Katyusha rockets in their very own homes, and soldiers killed as they fought for Israel's security and right to exist. Once again Israeli lives were turned upside down. Rabin Medical Center, located only 60 minutes from Haifa, a city so hard hit by rockets, was ready to assist in any emergency. Rabin Medical Center swung into high alert after Katyusha rockets landed in Northern Israel.

As one of the leading medical facilities in Israel, Rabin Medical Center has prided itself on being prepared for any and every medical emergency. The hospital and its staff worked hard over the years to plan for a smooth functioning of the hospital during stressful periods and wartime, thanks to an excellent staff, management team, stockpiling of vital equipment, and continued drills and simulations.

The Trauma Unit at Rabin Medical Center, headed by Dr. Mickey Stein, is one of six Level One units in Israel capable of treating large numbers of multi-injured patients simultaneously, both adults and children. In addition, the Trauma Unit serves as a referral unit for patients transferred from surrounding regional Level Two trauma centers, and in the present situation, must be ready to receive wounded from all areas being affected by the war. Rabin Medical Center has an adjacent heliport, which enables the wounded citizens and soldiers to be transported swiftly from throughout the country. The staff stand ready at all times with a trauma specialist on call twenty-four hours a day along with staff from the Department of Surgery who can reach the Trauma Unit within minutes. In the past, they have been awarded a medical prize in recognition of their faithful and relentless devotion in the treatment of terrorist attack victims.

When the call of an impending patient reaches the hospital, the physician in charge is immediately notified and begins to oversee the smooth running of emergency measures. This may involve calling extra doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and social workers to the scene, acquiring more hospital beds, setting up a hotline to keep family members informed of progress, and establishing an information center to remain in contact with other hospitals and municipalities.

In the event of unconventional warfare, such as biological or chemical, many extra steps are required, including ordering special medication and protective gear, placement of showers at the entrance of the hospital to avoid spread of contamination, obtaining special net stretchers so that victims can be hosed down, and preparation of additional respiratory machines to help victims breathe. These measures were already put into practice during the Gulf War, when the hospital was on alert for six weeks and ready to receive victims of chemical warfare.

During full scale war, as well as all the procedures mentioned above, Rabin Medical Center's Beilinson Hospital alters its capacity from 900 beds to 1,250. Doctors and nurses work twelve-hour shifts, instead of the usual eight, and a reserve platoon of 250 soldiers along with 750 high school students are called in to help.

The activities of the Trauma Unit increased dramatically since the beginning of the Intifada over ten years ago, with large numbers of wounded terrorist victims being brought to our unit, including many Israel Defense Forces soldiers injured in terrorist attacks while on duty and citizens who wanted nothing more then to enjoy a night out on the town and were caught instead by a suicide bombing. Even now, two soldiers recently wounded in duty are being treated at the hospital when they stepped on a bomb near the Gaza strip. Rabin Medical Center is thankful to be able to save the lives of many soldiers and terrorist victims. When lives are lost in Rabin Medical Center's care, it feels like a personal loss.

Much more is needed to expand Rabin Medical Center's emergency capabilities. Although Rabin Medical Center does its utmost to meet the demands during emergencies, the emergency room at the hospital is small in size compared to all other hospitals in Israel. Rabin Medical Center is in desperate need of a new Emergency and Trauma Center to serve as a trauma center and as an efficient base of operations to oversee and administer all preparations for emergency relief. The total size of the Emergency Department today is 9150 square feet, which was adequate in the 1960's. The 150,000 emergency room visits to the hospital annually strains the hospital's capacity. With terrorism from Hamas and Hezbollah now an ever-present reality, the hospital must not let its guard down.

Here is where the help of the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center is desperately needed. A project to expand the emergency efforts, the establishment of a new Emergency and Trauma Center is budgeted at 12 million dollars. The American Friends contributions to Rabin Medical Center can help pave the way to realizing the dream—no, the necessity, of having the best emergency center in Israel. This help can save the lives of Israel's soldiers and citizens and spare families further agony.

The dust will settle on this war, but Israel will have paid a heavy price. In the aftermath, Israel will suffer scars from losses sustained that for many will never heal. Deep financial hardships will be felt throughout the country. For Rabin Medical Center, cutbacks will surely occur that will challenge the excellent care that is provided. The assistance of friends is needed to help Rabin Medical Center continue its role in offering the best medical treatments possible.

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