IDF ambulance team saving lives in the Arava

Army medics provide life-saving treatment in emergency situations in isolated desert area.

 St.-Sgt. Nadav Arbeli 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
St.-Sgt. Nadav Arbeli 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
A year ago, St.-Sgt. Nadav Arbeli, a combat medic with the IDF’s Arava Regional Brigade, was sitting at his headquarters when a call came in from nearby Moshav Ein Yahav.
A blast tore through a facility belonging to the Mekorot national water company, where employees had come to repair a pipe, releasing toxic substances into the air and leaving several people seriously injured and unconscious.
Arbeli, together with an army doctor in the reserves and a team of medics, got into a new IDF ambulance and raced to the scene.
Despite being told not to enter, the doctor rushed to the victims and began reviving them, while Arbeli and other medics began oxygen treatments and other attempts to secure the airways of the unconscious victims struggling to breathe.
Air ambulances from the air force’s Airborne Rescue And Evacuation Unit 669 and Magen David Adom ferried the injured to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.
One person died, but four were saved thanks to Arbeli and his team. Their quick response was made possible by an IDF decision in June 2011 to set up a medical unit that would not only serve the recently established Arava Brigade, but also the civilians of the area, who live more than 100 kilometers away from the nearest hospital.
Arbeli, who will complete his service next month, told The Jerusalem Post that it was hard work to get the fast-response medical unit set up.
The specifications were demanding, he recounted.
“Our task was to set up a new medical clinic that will serve all of the soldiers’ needs and an ambulance that will cover a sector stretching for 200 kilometers. It’s the only ambulance service for civilians on the southern stretch of Route 90,” he said.
The communities in this isolated desert area have their own medics but limited response capabilities, and since 2011 they have been depending on the IDF in emergency situations.
“The ambulance has a team of medics, a doctor in the reserves, an incident manager, and a driver. What we set up is not inferior to MDA’s standards. We’ve responded to many incidents. Residents have learned to be in touch with us and call us directly,” Arbeli explained.
The idea of providing miltary- ambulance service to civilians was the result of a growing number of requests from local communities, Arbeli said. “This forced us to carry out an organizational shift. We once used larger military medical equipment... We’ve modified our weapons to make entering homes easier.”
With many of the small communities in the area populated with senior citizens, issues such as heart attacks, as well as asthma and life-threatening injuries, have led to call-outs.
In medical emergencies, the IDF team provides life-saving treatment on the scene, seeking to stabilize the patients’ condition while awaiting air ambulances, according to Arbeli.
With Josephtal Medical Center in Eilat and Soroka University Medical Center both an hour and a half away, such speedy responses have saved many lives.
“Before 2011, on many occasions, injured people had to wait for air ambulances or for Magen David Adom to reach them before getting treatment,” Arbeli said.