Shaare Zedek’s next big leap forward

Newly appointed director-general Prof. Ofer Merin is intimately familiar with what makes his hospital unique.

June 13, 2019 16:55
3 minute read.
Shaare Zedek’s next big leap forward


Prof. Ofer Merin, the newly appointed director-general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, is no stranger to pressure. Merin, a cardiothoracic surgeon and head of trauma services, also serves as a colonel in the army reserves, where he heads the IDF’s renowned mobile field hospital, which has treated and saved lives in numerous mass-casualty events around the world.

As just the fifth director-general in Shaare Zedek’s storied 118-year history, he acknowledges the magnitude of the task of leading Shaare Zedek. “It’s a big challenge,” he says.

Yet, having spent his entire 28-year medical career at Shaare Zedek – “I know the place, and the people know me” – Merin is intimately familiar with what makes Shaare Zedek unique. “Shaare Zedek is among Israel’s few remaining truly independent hospitals, and we fully manage our operating budget.”

He explains that this gives the hospital increased control over how its future will look. “We have the independence to be able to look ahead, assess the situation and say, ‘This is probably the greatest medical need in Jerusalem, so let’s try to expand this service.’ This puts us at a distinct advantage in being able to dictate which projects take priority based on our needs and those of the community.”

Merin is following in the footsteps of Prof. Jonathan Halevy, who served in the position for the past 31 years. Halevy helped transform Shaare Zedek from a small community hospital into the largest multidisciplinary medical center in Jerusalem.

“Shaare Zedek’s biggest leap forward was during Prof. Halevy’s tenure,” says Merin. Over the last decade, it has become one of the best medical centers in Israel.”

Merin says that Shaare Zedek’s rapid development has not diminished the level of care and attention that the hospital provides. “We were able to grow while retaining our unique atmosphere. The relationships that exist here are different than many other places, both among our staff and how we interact with our patients. It is special and exceptional.”

As the hospital continues to expand, Merin is intent on maintaining the balance between the quality of care and the quantity of services. “We need to look into different measures of quality – waiting times in the emergency room and hospital clinics, waiting times for surgery, and the overall rate of satisfaction from clinic services.”

Acknowledging the challenges that confront the Israeli healthcare system, Merin says that one of his first tasks will be to enlarge the hospital’s main Emergency Department and double its size within two years. “We have to pinpoint and resolve the bottlenecks,” he says.

Merin explains that his diverse medical experiences, at Shaare Zedek and as the head of the army’s field hospital, have been mutually beneficial. “My position in Shaare Zedek assisted me in organizing or running the army field hospital, and my position in the army helped me with my work at Shaare Zedek. I was able to draw on my experience and clinical skills as a trauma physician that I learned at Shaare Zedek for the army, and the medical decisions that I had to make in mass-casualty incidents in the framework of the IDF were helpful at Shaare Zedek. In addition, the skills necessary to manage hundreds of people at any given time are beneficial both in the army and at Shaare Zedek.”

Modern medicine is changing, says Merin, and these changes are coming to Shaare Zedek as well. “Today, we know that the field of medical genetics is becoming more important than ever before. Surgery is much less invasive, and there is a clear trend toward preventive medicine. We now understand there is no one treatment for disease. Medication for the same disease can affect two different patients in different ways.” And, he adds, “There is also a trend toward how to create better relationships between the community and the hospital. The hospital has to be more and more engaged with the public we serve, so that we are doing everything we can to make them feel that they are part of our development and our success as a healthcare provider.”

“Over my 28 years at this hospital,” Merin says, “I have woken up every morning, happy and eager to come to work at Shaare Zedek. Now that I have been blessed to manage this incredible hospital, I thank God for such a special opportunity and look forward to taking it into the next stage of growth and progress.”

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