Israeli doctors teach Chilean medics

Mass Casualty course useful in earthquake.

collapsed building in Concepcion (photo credit: AP)
collapsed building in Concepcion
(photo credit: AP)
Although a five-day Israeli course taught in Chile on trauma emergency and mass casualty situations was initiated over six months ago, it came in very handy when it finally took place last week, as the South American country was hit by a powerful earthquake in April and is still coping with its aftermath.
The course was given by a team headed by experts from Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, who returned a few days ago from Chile, where they found a lack of preparedness among many institutions and an urgent need for Israeli knowhow.
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The course was offered in Santiago to 300 medical personnel, among them senior members of Chile’s air and ground forces, as well as representatives of its rescue units and police force. News of the Israeli delegation spread, and 12 doctors and nurses from Paraguay also showed up.
The April earthquake, which registered 8.8 on the Richter scale, was followed by a tsunami on the country’s southern coast. The catastrophe destroyed entire areas and caused the collapse of numerous structures, the Rambam experts said.
The course was initiated by Dr. Alfredo Mizrahi, a Jewish local physician who works in Santiago’s Las Condes Hospital.
Mizrahi, a longtime friend of Rambam, initiated the first such course in Chile – on organizing a trauma center – two years ago. The recent course, held under the auspices of the Jewish community, included lectures and workshops.
Three Rambam representatives led the delegation: Dr.
Moshe Michaelson, director of the trauma unit; Gila Hyams, head of the Teaching Center for Trauma and Mass Casualty Situations; and public relations director Nurit Naeh.
The delegation also included Dr. Leon Poles from Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center, who is an expert in chemical warfare and mass casualty events; Dr. Amir Blumenfeld, former head of IDF Trauma Unit and a Health Ministry adviser on mass casualty events; and Chaim Rafalowski, Magen David Adom’s Chilean-born representative of emergency medicine.
“The delegation members presented a broad array of ways to deal with these events,” said Michaelson, adding that “the response was incredible – the participants were hungry for knowledge.
They didn’t stop showing interest and asking questions, and at the end of the course, we received many offers for cooperation and additional courses.”
A day before the course began, the delegation toured the tsunami disaster site, which is being restored, partly with the support of the country’s 15,000-member Jewish community, which also donated two ambulances. These were dedicated at a ceremony attended by the Israeli delegation members, the regional governor and health minister and representatives of the Jewish community.
“The pictures here are very difficult. Four months after the disaster, there is still damage everywhere. Where hospitals once stood, there are now tents,” said Hyams, who added that the Jewish community’s assistance has been very significant.
“I was so excited to hear about the heroism of the medical teams that worked in such awful conditions during the catastrophe,” she added.
During the tour, the delegation met with Dr. Daniela Guede, a young doctor who arrived in the area shortly before the earthquake and remained to treat the injured.
The doctor, who also took part in the Rambam course, had met several months ago with
Maj.-Gen. Elon Glazberg, head of the IDF trauma unit, who came to learn from the Chilean experience in coping with earthquakes. During his stay, Glazberg advised Guede on how to reorganize her clinic, which was destroyed in the tsunami and moved to a temporary shelter.
Rambam’s Teaching Center is widely known for its experience in treating war wounded along Israel’s northern border and in accepting difficult trauma cases referred from other northern hospitals. Representatives from Rambam’s School for Organization and Treatment of Trauma travel around the world, and the center recently held a course in trauma for medical personnel in NATO countries.