The Rambam Medical Center in Haifa is this week dedicating a NIS 600 million,
three-story underground facility, which in peacetime will serve as a parking lot
with capacity for 1,400 vehicles and in wartime will function as a 2,000-bed
hospital to service the entire northern region.
The unusual facility – in
which beds, oxygen tanks, dialysis machines and a large variety of other
equipment are stored within the walls – was made possible by a NIS 100 million
donation by the late philanthropist Sammy Ofer, plus government matching funds
and contributions from “friends” organizations. It will become totally
operational in October.
Prof. Rafael Beyar, the medical center’s
director-general, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that old Byzantine ruins
have been found on the campus.
He said the fact that the ruins did not
contain human bones enabled Rambam to evade the fate of Barzilai Medical
Center’s underground emergency facilities – whose construction was delayed for
years due to opposition by haredi (ultra-Orthodox) groups, and is still
The cement walls store dozens of kilometers of oxygen tubes,
medical supplies, water and electricity. “All the equipment is locked, secure
and guarded against vandalism,” said Beyar.
“Everything is done in
coordination with the Health Ministry,” he said. “Twice a year, the equipment
will be examined, and anything that expires will be replaced.”
emergency hospital has being built at a depth of eight meters below sea level.
It will have the capacity to generate its own power.
Both Rambam and
Barzilai have been exposed to missile attacks in recent years from inside
Lebanon and Gaza, creating a need for such a facility.
hospital in the country needs such facilities; the experts decide where
underground emergency hospitals are needed,” Beyar said.
“At first, we
thought we needed space for 700 hospital beds, but the ministry decided that
2,000 were need to serve residents in the whole northern region in an
The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place on Tuesday during
the medical center’s annual Rambam Summit and Mission, which will be held
through June 8 and include an award ceremony and a conference on
One of the summit guests will be Dr. John McManus, a soon-to-be
retired colonel in the US Army Medical Corps and and a decorated combat veteran.
McManus has served on active duty on assignments throughout the world, including
Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq. He recently served as the chief medical officer of the
last combat support hospital in Baghdad.
While the US military officer
“has a lot to tell us, he also has a lot to learn at Rambam – as we have much
experience functioning in wartime,” Beyar said.