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Photo by: Rambam Medical Center
Rambam parking lot will serve as hospital
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
06/03/2012
Medical center’s new underground parking facility will double as 2,000-bed emergency hospital for North.
 
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 proceeding.

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.”

The 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.

“Not every 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 emergency.”

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 trauma.

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.
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