Hospitals don’t need to have experienced a mass catastrophe to effectively prepare for one, according to research by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which in cooperation with the Health Ministry has developed a new evaluation model for assessing Israeli hospitals’ emergency preparedness. In fact, inexperience may even be an advantage.The model, published recently in the American Journal of Medical Quality, used 306 predetermined and measurable benchmarks to evaluate 24 acute care Israeli hospitals in four areas. As yet, there is no widely accepted, validated tool for evaluating hospital emergency preparedness in Israel or in the US, according to Dr. Bruria Adini of BGU’s department of emergency medicine, who is also affiliated with the ministry’s emergency and disaster management division. The goal was to investigate the effect of ongoing use of an evaluation system on hospitals’ preparedness for natural or man-made disasters.In the study, two full evaluation cycles were conducted in 24 hospitals, from 2005 to 2006 and a second from 2007 to 2009, during which all parameters were evaluated. Following the first evaluation cycle, the hospitals implemented various Quality Improvement (QI) strategies. As a result, a significant increase was found in the total scores between the first and second cycles, from 77 percent to 88.5%.An ongoing assessment of emergency preparedness motivates hospitals management and staff to improve capabilities, Adini explained. All hospitals, even those with limited or no experience in managing mass casualty events, can benefit from standards defined in the evaluation process and thus achieve a high level of emergency preparedness.Torah & lifesavingStudents at hesder yeshivot (that combine military service with Talmud study) around the country decided not to go on their three-week vacation for the High Holy Days, and instead to take an emergency medics’ course at Magen David Adom.The students, who all were MDA volunteers before they reached 18, will soon become professional medics able to volunteer on MDA mobile intensive care units and and regular ambulances – most in the periphery of the country. They have committed themselves to work once a week as medics and to come at any time in emergencies to save lives. The intensive three-week course, including 12 hours a day of study, was held on the Kibbutz Sha’alavim hesder yeshiva campus.Nadav Klein, a hesder graduate, initiator of the course and its personal counselor, said he hoped the first course will be followed by many more.