A new face for MDA Jerusalem

The renovated NIS 30m facility in the capital – courtesy of NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other donors – promises to improve service.

New MDA building 311 (photo credit: Courtesty of MDA)
New MDA building 311
(photo credit: Courtesty of MDA)
Veteran Jerusalemites recall the capital’s Magen David Adom station from the 1970s as a fortress-like concrete building – a dreary place with small windows and too little space. The narrow panes had been installed purposely to prevent harm from Jordanian snipers in the valley across from the Romema neighborhood.
Constructed in 1963 with funds from MDA’s South African Friends, the building was suitable for pre-1967 Jerusalem, but inadequate after the city flourished and grew.
Last week, the capital was presented with a gift by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – a magnificent, NIS 30 million, renovated and expanded regional facility suited for decades to come to the needs of the 13 percent of the population in the Jerusalem region. Bloomberg was the lead donor, joined by contributors through American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) and other groups from Europe and elsewhere.
Aside from the aesthetics of the edifice and the much larger space, the most tangible change is the huge glass component that makes the station airy and open.
The William H. Bloomberg MDA Jerusalem Station was named to memorialize the billionaire mayor’s father, who died in 1963 – the same year the original station was opened. His energetic mother Charlotte, who died in June at the age of 102, had been due to attend the opening of the new station.
She had come to Jerusalem for the cornerstone-laying ceremony in February 2007, along with her son Michael and daughter Marjorie Tiven. Both of her grown children attended the opening ceremony.
“I believe my father is looking down and has a big smile on his face,” said the three-term mayor, who had previously dedicated a unit at Hadassah University Medical Center in her honor.
“My family was attracted to Magen David Adom because of its spirit of volunteerism and its unwavering commitment to treat all people equally regardless of race or religion,” he said. “Today is a great day. I have always thought that Israel is one of the great friends that America has, and we are thrilled to be a part of this and will never forget everything that Israel does every day for the world.”
In addition to the Bloomberg family, attending the ceremony in huge tents outside the station were the chief rabbis, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, MDA director-general Eli Bin, Kadima MK and Knesset health lobby chairman Rachel Adatto and dozens of foreign donors who were in for the International Magen David Adom Conference.
It took four-and-a-half years from cornerstone-laying to dedication because of lawsuits, red tape and other problems.
MDA Jerusalem’s 150 paid staffers and 1,500 volunteers serve the city and its surroundings, saving lives around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year. More than 1.2 million people live in the region covered by the new facility, which has become the largest in the country.
In addition to residents, the number of people in the city swells from the daily influx of government and other employees, foreign and local tourists, and students.
NOT ONLY has the new station been renovated and expanded, but modern engineering standards have been applied to protect it from the threats of an earthquake and both conventional and non-conventional war. The new David Mark Berger Chapter Blood Donation Center, with its plush reclining chairs, makes giving blood in Jerusalem a pleasant experience, sure to boost the number of donations.
The fleet of bloodmobiles that operates from the station will now be able to do so easily and efficiently, loading and unloading supplies directly into a state-of-the-art blood bank, without the need to carry them up and down stairs.
Instead of the station’s five dozen ambulances, mobile intensive care units and bloodmobiles vying for parking spaces on the street or in a small lot behind the building, there is now separate, covered parking for ambulances in the three-tiered parking deck.
First-aid and other training will be provided in the building’s Nathan and Jacqueline Goldman Palm Beach Friends MDA Pre-Hospital Training Center, which features new, modern facilities and infrastructure. A new visitors’ center will attract people from around the country and abroad as a permanent interactive exhibit about the MDA’s history and its current activities. The Morris and Nancy Offit Conference Center will allow for formal programs and educational films. An observation deck on the roof provides a breathtaking view of the hills and valley at the entrance to Jerusalem.
Rapidly finding people in distress in a city with buildings lacking street numbers, and roads without street signs, has always been difficult.
The installation of a state-of-the- art Jerusalem Dispatch Center, which will be the most modern in the country, should make this task much easier for ambulance drivers.
The Moto-bridge communications system enables staffers to receive emergency calls and alerts online from every type of communications device.
Pedestrian walkways, access roads and separate parking levels for private automobiles and MDA emergency service vehicles significantly improve the organization’s ability to get its ambulances on the road to answer urgent calls. A whole floor of the original building has been renovated to provide comfortable staff rooms, lounges and offices; the rebuilding and refurbishment makes the facilities from 1963 virtually unrecognizable.
The paid staffers who will use them include 66 paramedics, 57 emergency medical technicians and ambulance drivers, 13 dispatch center operators, four emergency doctors, four EMS trainers and six management personnel.
The volunteers include 1,200 adults and 350 teenagers.
Last year, MDA Jerusalem personnel gave medical help to over 53,000 people, rushed almost 4,100 women in labor to the hospital (or performed emergency deliveries in ambulances or at home), came to help victims of almost 9,000 road accidents and provided medical backup at 1,148 public events. A total of nearly 76,000 operation runs make the MDA Jerusalem Region the busiest in the country.
Although sculptures and other art are not necessary for advanced first aid and blood collection, the William H. Bloomberg MDA Jerusalem Station is punctuated by commissioned original works from leading international artists that will make visiting it an aesthetic experience.
The most visible is called Waiting Room, by Franz West, which has been installed in the plaza behind the station. Perched high above the valley, the curved blue and green forms and seating areas surrounding the sculpture are likely to become a city landmark. In addition, 10 images from photographs taken by Frederic Brenner of families who made aliya, collectively titled Exile at Home, grace the walls of the station, while another photographic collection called Way to Beyond, taken by Naomi Leshem, relates to healing and hope.