United Hatzalah slams MDA following lawsuit

Following MDA slander suit, United Hatzalah issues letter of defense to court, claims MDA preventing its responders from reaching victims.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

A United Hatzalah ambucycle en route to an emergency in Jerusalem (illustrative)
A United Hatzalah ambucycle en route to an emergency in Jerusalem (illustrative)
Shira Hershkopf

United Hatzalah, an organization providing free emergency medical services, issued a letter of defense to a Tel Aviv court responding to a 2.3 million shekel ($634,352) lawsuit by another emergency services group, Magen David Adom (MDA), which has accused United Hatzalah of slander.

In the letter of defense submitted to the District Court of Tel Aviv, United Hatzalah cited several cases in which it claims prove Magen David Adom intentionally withheld addresses and other pertinent medical information from United Hatzalah first responders, in order to prevent them from reaching patients in need of emergency medical care.

According to United Hatzalah, one of these instances resulted in the death of a woman. In another instance, an older man suffering from severe shortness of breath and residing in a hostel, continued to suffer while a volunteer from United Hatzalah with oxygen and full medical gear was on the street but was not given the address of where to find the person in need. An additional case saw Magen David Adom refuse to give the address of a woman in active labor, to a volunteer EMT nearby.

United Hatzalah told the court that over the past number of years, Magen David Adom has continuously refused to give over vital information regarding the whereabouts of these medical cases, even when United Hatzalah volunteers were close to the scene and able to provide intervention to those in need. This refusal, it emphasized, endangers lives.

In several of the cases, MDA dispatchers claimed they were following Health Ministry protocols and therefore could not give out patients' information. However, United Hatzalah believes the protocols were not followed.

"Read these stories, hear them, but it is next-to-impossible to believe that they actually occurred," the letter says. "United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs pleading with Magen David Adom’s dispatch to receive information regarding a medical emergency taking place, at a time when they are right next to the incident and only need the exact address in order to save the lives of the people who called for help and are in danger. However, Magen David Adom, due to improper reasons, prevented the passing of information in a manner that endangered lives."

These stories, the letter emphasized, are "the tip of the iceberg with regards to how the style of operation of Magen David Adom endangers lives and how their monopoly on the emergency medical services in Israel threatens its citizens."

The letter also claimed that MDA's average response time - reported to be between eight and nine minutes - can be upwards of twenty minutes in Israel's periphery.

"Instead of dealing with the practical criticism that has been passed on to Magen David Adom and learning from it and saving more lives, MDA has chosen to submit a fruitless lawsuit in an attempt to turn legitimate criticism into slander," the letter concluded. "We are confident that the court will decide unequivocally that this attempt will not succeed."

“United Hatzalah’s allegations are inaccurate and are reflective of the very types of statements that compelled Magen David Adom to file a slander suit against them in the first place,” said Uri Shacham, MDA’s chief of staff.

“More than 18 months ago, the Ministry of Health created a mechanism whereby United Hatzalah medics, provided they met the ministry’s accreditation requirements, would register with the ministry and then be eligible to be dispatched to emergencies by Magen David Adom. But United Hatzalah refused to comply with that arrangement for more than a year until mandated to do so earlier this year by the ministry. So for them to assert now that their medics weren’t given the addresses by us when they didn’t comply with the very simple procedure designed to ensure they would be dispatched is completely disingenuous.”