Train Fire 311.
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
The lack of dedicated, fully staffed and equipped burns-units in Israel is no less dire than the inadequate firefighting equipment and trained personnel exposed during the Carmel forest catastrophe.
So says National Union MK Arye Eldad, a trained plastic surgeon considered the leading burns expert in the country.
Eldad studied burns treatment in England before serving as the IDF chief medical officer in 1997, and in 2006, was elected to the Knesset. Eldad gave an exclusive interview to The Jerusalem Post
at the Knesset on Monday.
After hearing about the fire in the Israel Railways train that fortunately caused only smoke inhalation but no burns, he restated the danger on Tuesday.
People in Israel who are seriously burned have half the chances for survival that they would in the US, Britain, France or other countries with advanced burns units, he said.
He noted that four survivors of the recent huge forest fire died within days or a couple of weeks after being burned over most of their body.
“When such an event occurs, the heads of the Health Ministry call all the major hospitals to find beds for them,” he said.
In the case of the Carmel forest fire, the four were taken to Haifa’s
Rambam Medical Center, which does not have a dedicated unit. Sheba
Medical Center has what it calls a burns unit, but Eldad said it falls
short of a dedicated one with its own intensive care unit, surgical
theater and round-the-clock anesthesiologist to ameliorate the victim’s
The MK and plastic surgeon, who continues to voluntarily lecture on
burns to students at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in
Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem twice a month, continues to attend burns
conferences abroad and stay abreast of the medical literature.
He told the Post that it is not economically feasible for hospitals to
keep a dedicated burns unit going all the time without subsidy by the
state, as the number of cases is relatively small. Were the Health
Ministry allowed by the Treasury to significantly increase payments for
treating burns patients, there would be financial incentive to do so,
In the meantime, Eldad said he has “given up hope” on the Health
Ministry which, over many years, has been criticized by state
comptroller reports for neglecting the care of burns patients numerous
times – and yet nothing has been done about it.
Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director-general of the Hadassah Medical
Organization, told the Post that plastic surgery and general intensive
care units treat serious burns patients today. The Ein Kerem hospital
still bears the sign of the Kobo Burns Unit that Eldad headed, but which
has been downgraded since then.
If the ministry offered better financial incentives for fully fledged
burns units, said Mor- Yosef, “we would consider [installing them] at
The Health Ministry’s senior officials, though requested to comment on Monday, have not yet done so.
A feature on the danger of dedicated burns units will appear on the Health Page on Sunday, January 9.