In the shadow of increasing tensions on Israel's northern border, on May 7, the Rambam Health Care Campus inaugurated a command center in the Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital.
The center was made possible thanks to a $1 million donation from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
Rambam is northern Israel’s largest hospital, and has been operating the fortified underground hospital since 2014. The underground facility is the largest of its kind in the world, and was constructed in response to the Second Lebanon War.
Designed to treat 2,000 patients from throughout the region, it is managed by a select staff consisting of hospital officials responsible for patient triage, following the status of all vital hospital systems, logistics, and more. This critical information is transferred to the Command Center (War Room) in real time, where it is analyzed and displayed on screens for decision-making purposes, with the help of a dedicated emergency software system developed at Rambam and adopted by the Ministry of Health.
Until now, the Command Center had operated from an unprotected area on the ground floor of the main hospital. In a war situation, including an attack scenario on the area, as was the case in the 2006 Lebanon War, staff manning the center would have needed to evacuate to a protected facility. Now, everything has changed.
The multi-disciplinary team that operates the hospital during wartime and emergencies will be situated in the new Command Center, built according to the highest of standards so that it can function as the nerve center of the underground hospital.
The protected area includes a large meeting room for management to plan for and respond to emergency events; an operations room with 16 workstations for personnel and logistics, rooms for the hospital manager and deputies, a staff kitchenette, and restrooms. Construction took six months and included installation of new infrastructure such as electrical and communications systems, air conditioning, separation walls, and various types of ceilings, all of which are designed to support personal forced to reside underground for an extended period of time.
The Command Center was planned together with the underground hospital, but its construction was postponed due to lack of budget.
Only in 2017, after the donation from the IFCJ, did execution commence.
Previously, IFCJ contributed to fortified operating rooms in the bottom level of the underground facility.
Participating in the May 7 inauguration ceremony were Rabbi Eckstein and representatives of the IFCJ, as well as Home Front Command Chief Surgeon Col. Dr. Olga Polyakov, senior Home Front Command representatives, and representatives of the Rambam management.
"The Second Lebanon War taught us important lessons on how to prepare for the coming years," Rambam Director Professor Rafi Beyar said. "Rambam has a vital role in protecting the northern population during war or emergency scenarios."
"With a practical vision and the help of many friends, we established the Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital. Today we completed the mission, so that we can respond to emergency events in the best possible way for the hundreds of patients expected to reach us from throughout the northern region. We are prepared for any eventuality."
"In recent years, the foundation has invested NIS 150 million in a variety of life-saving projects, such as renovating 2,400 shelters, fortifying and providing essential equipment for hospitals in the periphery and in conflict zones, purchasing new fire trucks for fire fighters, and more," Rabbi Eckstein noted.
"Over the years, we have experienced, together with the citizens of Israel and security forces, a range of emergency situations. We are committed to standing together with the people of Israel, both in routine and emergency times. In these days of tension on the northern border and the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, it is important for us to make sure that the rescue forces are equipped with the best technologies to deal with any situation and for treatment of casualties.
"I hope the Command Center inaugurated today will enable the wonderful staff of the hospital to cope with any situation, in order to be able to treat and save the lives of northern residents and Israeli security forces. "