IDF coronavirus ward opens in Rambam's underground parking lot

Military's top medical officer: "The IDF has never treated Israeli citizens, even during the country’s hardest years."

IDF coronavirus ward open in Rambam's underground parking lot, Oct. 2020 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF coronavirus ward open in Rambam's underground parking lot, Oct. 2020
The IDF opened its first coronavirus wards at the underground parking lot of Rambam Hospital in Haifa on Sunday as part of the national effort to fight the deadly disease.
The ward will be staffed by a team of some 100 doctors, paramedics, nurses, and medics from the military, and they will treat patients deemed in moderate to serious condition.
The medical teams were trained by Rambam staff over the past week “at dizzying speeds” said Brig.-Gen. Prof. Alon Glazberg, the IDF chief medical officer. The effort to send military medical staff to treat civilians has been dubbed “Operation Tribe of Brothers.”
The staff have come from throughout the military medical corps, with some doctors specializing in internal or family medicine and nurses specializing in treating emergency cases.
Over the past two weeks, Rambam’s underground car park has been transformed to accommodate 770 patients. It will be under the management of Chief Medical Officer of the Northern Command, Col. Dr. Erez Karp, the former deputy-director of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
According to the Defense Ministry, some 70 patients, most of them in serious condition, are already being treated at the facility.
“The IDF has never treated Israeli citizens, even during the country’s toughest years,” Glazberg said. “We give humanitarian aid, including our neighbors in Syria but until now, we have never treated Israelis.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who toured the facility before its opening, said that he was “proud” that the IDF’s medical corps will be working inside a civilian hospital because while “we have a health care system with excellent manpower and good infrastructure, to be honest, it does not have the necessary resources and required manpower” to deal with the pandemic.
“We are working to fill a decade-long gap of neglect,” Gantz added. “You can’t sweep it under the rug, it’s lying there, a decade of neglect that’s now dealing with an epidemic.”
According to Rambam Hospital director-general, Dr. Michael Halbertal, the officers are a “force multiplier” which would free up the hospital’s staff for other needs.
Israel currently has 62,206 active cases and 1,941 people have died.
Speaking to reporters, Halbertal said that the wards would function for the coming months, especially during the winter. He explained that the infrastructure to house the wards was built after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when many buildings in northern Israel did not have protection from the mass rocket bombardment.
“We can’t now look at citizens in the eye and say we can’t care for them. This location, which is three stories deep, provides us with parking during normal days but during times of emergencies and war – and this is a war against corona – allows us to provide care for patients.”
While the military had originally said that the IDF decided to collaborate with the hospital in Haifa due to the high number of cases in the north, which had been hit particularly hard at the beginning of the second wave, this is no longer the case.
According to Gantz, there’s been a “significant reduction” in confirmed cases throughout the country because “most Israeli citizens obey the regulations.” But, he said, it comes “at the high cost of harming the economy and society” which needs to be addressed.
Halbertal told reporters the fact that military officers are working shoulder to shoulder with hospital staff is a “big message to Israel,” but it “doesn’t diminish the fact that everyone should be responsible” in combating the virus.
“We cannot forget for one minute that this situation didn’t have to happen. It’s in everyone’s hands to do the most basic things, like wearing masks, keeping proper hygiene, and social distancing,” he stressed. “We could have prevented this.”
The ward was opened in a ceremony attended by Gantz, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir.