‘Hospitals not prepared for missiles, quakes’

Health Ministry Associate Director-General Dr. Boaz Lev says all country's hospitals need to be renovated, fortified.

Hadassah hospital 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Hadassah hospital 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Health Ministry Associate Director-General Dr. Boaz Lev said Monday that all the country’s medical centers need to be expanded, renovated and fortified in the event of an enemy missile attack or devastating earthquake.
But Lev conceded that “nothing is perfect,” and it will take five years until hospital administrators are satisfied.
The issue was raised on Monday in the Knesset Control Committee by Kadima MK and physician Dr. Rachel Adatto, who was following up on comptroller reports on the hospital system’s lack of readiness in the event of such an attack.
The Knesset committee was chaired by MK Yoel Hasson, who also focused on the lack of hospital manpower and hospital beds in an emergency of such magnitude.
He said that in the next attack, the public will be “much less forgiving” of the authorities’ shortcomings than they were in the Second Lebanon War.
Hasson warned that even the Japanese – who were well prepared for the possibility of a strong earthquake – were “surprised” by the force of the last quake. “We in Israel are always on the edge of an emergency situation,” he said.
While it is true that not every eventuality can be safely managed, Hasson added that “one can plan better than we have today. We still have not received satisfactory answers from the Health Ministry and Magen David Adom on the lack of manpower and hospital beds.”
Only some hospitals in the north and south were fortified with underground emergency rooms, surgical theaters and other vital facilities – and this took much time and private fundraising when state funding was inadequate.
But Adatto said that due to enemy missiles having longer ranges and more power, all the general, geriatric, rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals around Israel could have to admit wounded patients.
Thus all of them needed fortification, she said.
Adatto added that even during an ordinary, flu-ridden winter season, there are ordinarily about 10,000 acute hospital patients.
“But we also have to prepare for an earthquake, or a war at the same time,” she said. “It is still not clear who would manage such an occurrence – the Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces or a National Emergency Authority.”
Lev, a longtime senior ministry official, said “in five years, hospital fortification will be much improved.” He agreed with Adatto that all hospitals need to be fortified, but due to financial limitations the priority now is mostly for those in the periphery.
Ziv Hospital director Dr. Oscar Embon warned that although his hospital was hit from missiles in the Second Lebanon War, it has not been fortified.
“We are still far away from this because no budget has been found,” he cautioned.
“Also in the event of an earthquake, Ziv is on the top of the list of unprepared hospitals, but it is not being readied.”