The first operation at the new public hospital built by a private company – Ashdod’s Assuta Medical Center – was performed this week. Now in its running-in period, the hospital is expected to carry out some 17,000 annually in surgical theaters specially built to reduce the prevalence of nosocomial (in-house) infections. The government has not built and run a new public hospital on its own for many years, preferring for the first time to pay private interests to do so.The Ashdod hospital, which was initially planned in a deal between the Finance and Health Ministry – and with much impetus from Ger hassidim who live in the city – to have private medical services (SHARAP) as well as public ones, received additional money from the Treasury so it would be only public. A total of NIS 1 billion was invested in the hospital by the state and by Assuta, which is a private subsidiary owned by Maccabi Health Services.The operating rooms, which function on a protected underground floor, can function even in emergency situations such as missiles and rockets from Gaza. The large and spacious operating rooms were equipped with the most advanced multimedia systems, enabling doctors to receive in real time and throughout the surgery the patient’s medical history, including imaging the results of tests performed in the past. In addition, the surgery could be used in real time for teaching, learning and specialization purposes, as Assuta Ashdod is a university hospital affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. The hospital will eventually have eight general surgical theaters, in addition to two operating rooms for eye surgery and two for cesarean sections in the obstetrics ward. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Uri Farkash said that "even after 16 years of experience in the operating room, there is no doubt that it is exciting to be part of such a historic event. The first operation, which I had the honor to lead, is the culmination of an ongoing process of intensive preparation and joint work by the hospital staff, and I am proud to be part of it.”Ashkelon resident Alexander Fermiakov, who had suffered pains in his hand for about a year, was the first patient. Two weeks ago, he met Farkash at the hospital’s outpatient clinics, and it was decided to do an operation on his palm. He said he was very pleased with the results. The outpatient clinics were opened in June, while the maternity department is due to begin delivering babies in October. The emergency department will follow in October and mark the hospital’s full functioning.