In the wake of November’s rocket attacks and Operation Pillar of Defense, the harsh realization has once again hit Israelis that no person or area in the country is ever exempt from the threat of war. Luckily, some have taken the initiative to work on safeguarding the people of Israel against this
threat. The Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital is a new structure on the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, and is designed to protect patients and staff against conventional and unconventional warfare.
“The initiative for a fortified hospital came about following the Second Lebanon War six years ago,” said Professor Rafi Beyar, Director and CEO of Rambam Health Care Campus.“The hospital itself was under missile attack, and although no one was hurt, we realized that we couldn't rely on miracles anymore.”
The structure that was subsequently built is an underground three-story, 60,000 square meter facility, which during peacetime will function as a 1,500-vehicle parking lot. The structure is fully fortified against conventional, chemical and biological warfare which means that not only does it have thick cement walls and ceilings, but is also equipped with tens of thousands of ventilation and air filtration units. The units are equipped with carbon and HEPA filters that are 98% effective in filtering out biological and chemical agents.
If war is suddenly declared, the parking lot will transform into a hospital, becoming fully functional within just 72 hours. The facility will be fully sealed off, with enough breathable oxygen, drinking water, and medical-gas supplies for up to three days. The process for this transformation has been methodically planned—logistically and medically—by a team of expert consultants, so that each and every detail is accounted for.
“First, all the cars need to be removed from the lot,” Berkowitz said. “Then, the 60,000 square meters of floors and walls will be cleaned thoroughly, ready for hospital use. An ‘army’ of designated personnel will then bring 2,000 medical beds, hundreds of portable toilets and showers, medical gas supplies, air-conditioning systems and multiple other items from an off-campus hangar, and install them in their pre-determined places. Other items such as dressers, nurses’ stations, medications and medical forms and files will be moved down from the regular hospital. Imaging systems (X-ray and CT) will also be transported and prepared for use.
“In addition to all the technical and medical equipment, we also have to make sure that we have enough food to feed the thousands of patients and staff who will be absorbed into the hospital,” he added.
Organizers are optimistic that the fully functional hospital will be ready as soon as possible. “The threat of war has not disappeared and has unfortunately grown stronger,”said Professor Beyar. “As the main referral hospital for over two million people in the North of Israel, we are determined to have the capabilities of providing acute and chronic hospital care under fire to all those who need it.”