A new medical center being built in the Binyamin Regional Council will provide desperately needed healthcare services, including trauma care and dialysis, to the over 200,000 residents of the area who currently have to drive hours to get to the nearest hospital.
The idea was born about seven years ago when Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz received a call that there had been a terrorist attack at the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial zone.
When he arrived at the scene he saw Tuvia Yanai Weissman, an off-duty soldier who had been stabbed by a terrorist in a supermarket. Weismann spoke to him at the scene and even assured him that he would be ok, but in the end, he did not survive the trip to the nearest hospital in Jerusalem because of the distance and the heavy traffic in the area.
"At that moment, I decided that we needed to establish a medical center [in Binyamin] that will save lives. Sadly, since then there have been more incidents in which I said to myself 'maybe if there had been a medical center here, things would have ended differently,'" said Ganz.
The regional council head additionally pointed to a terrorist attack in Ofra in which a pregnant woman was shot and lost her baby as a result. When she arrived at the hospital, a doctor said that if she had arrived at the hospital even five minutes later she would have likely not made it.
What services will the new medical center offer?
The new medical center, located in the Sha'ar Binyamin Industrial Zone near Kochav Yaakov, will include an emergency room with a trauma center that can provide initial care for people injured in car accidents, terrorist attacks and other serious incidents.
Residents will also have access to departments for women's health, pediatric care, treatments for chronic diseases, medical specialists, x-rays, dialysis, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, hearing issues and advanced imaging, among many other healthcare services.
All of the Israeli HMOs will provide services at the center as well and there will also be a pharmacy located on site.
The Binyamin Regional Council encompasses about 50 communities north of Jerusalem, including Beit El, Beit Horon, Givat Harel, Maaleh Levona, Kochav Yaakov, Eli, Shilo, Talmon and Hashmonaim, among others.
"Today all the residents who want to receive significant medical treatment need to drive to Jerusalem at all hours of the day. People don't go to get care," stressed Ganz.
The Binyamin Regional Council has been working for several years to plan and build the medical center. The council formed a committee of senior doctors from across Israel and from all different fields of expertise to decide on what services are needed and how to set them up.
The skeleton of the building is already constructed and now the council is working to raise the funds necessary to complete the construction of the center and open it.
"There is a good, precious, Zionist, pioneering population here and we need to give them medical coverage, to keep them safe. They are the pioneers of this generation and the minimum required is to give them medical coverage for a proper life here," said Ganz.
"There is a good, precious, Zionist, pioneering population here and we need to give them medical coverage, to keep them safe."Israel Ganz
Ganz departed on Wednesday to the US to meet with donors, community leaders and Jewish communities to raise funds for the medical center and for all the equipment needed for the center. The regional council hopes to be able to open the medical center within the next year and a half.
"We in Israel are emissaries of all the Jews of the world, especially in Judea and Samaria which is the land of our heritage. Here is where the stories of the Tanakh took place. This is where we were born, the first capital of Israel was in Shilo and today, the closest hospital to Shilo is up to two hours away with traffic," explained the regional council head. "So we are here, returning home, and we are asking for the help of our partners around the world who care about the living conditions of the settlers."
Ganz explained that he has met with Health Ministry officials, Jerusalem municipal officials and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of the efforts to establish the medical center. The regional council head noted that most of the hospitals in the country were built with the help of donations, with the government taking care of the provision of healthcare services once the structures were built.
Prof. Itamar Grotto, former deputy director-general of the Health Ministry, has expressed support for the initiative, stating in an information sheet about the medical center that "Bringing quality health care to Binyamin, the northern Jerusalem suburbs, is a national priority. The Binyamin Medical Center will offer a full range of medical services of the highest quality. This will profoundly impact the lives of the residents of the Binyamin Region as well as the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods."
A lack of reliable access to medical care is a shared issue across the West Bank, with residents across Judea and Samaria usually needing to drive long distances and through heavy traffic, often on one-lane roads, in order to get to hospitals or to see medical specialists. While there are some smaller medical centers in a few of the larger settlements, there are no other medical centers on the scale of the one being built in Binyamin in the West Bank, says Ganz.