Magen David Adom triples call-fielding capacity to deal with coronavirus

The emergency organization has increased its number of workstations from 93 to 352, as coronavirus related calls have tested the system.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at opening of MDA's new auxilliary call center in Ramla. March 13, 2020 (photo credit: COURTESY MDA)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at opening of MDA's new auxilliary call center in Ramla. March 13, 2020
(photo credit: COURTESY MDA)
Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's medical emergency response unit, has more than tripled its call-taking capacity this week in light of the tens of thousands of calls it has been fielding thanks to the coronavirus outbreak.
The MDA's call-response and dispatch system, already long considered among the most technologically significant in the world, has expanded the number of call-taker workstations from 93 to 352 through the addition of two new facilities.
The existing network, located at MDA’s National Operations Center in Kiryat Ono and six regional dispatch centers throughout the country, already constituted Israel's largest call-center network. That system was augmented last week by the creation of an auxiliary workspace at Kiryat Ono, while on Friday, President Reuven Rivlin inaugurated a new hotline center at the Homefront Command base in Ramla, providing an additional 100 call-taker stations to the network. The center was built by the IDF's Teleprocessing Battalion and MDA's Teleprocessing personnel.
The move was considered necessary after MDA received more calls this past week than ever fielded previously - in one hour long period it received 9,000 calls, 50% more than it normally receives in a whole day. On Wednesday, MDA received more than 48,000 calls.
But even with the additional staff, there was a brief period on Saturday in which 309 of the 352 stations were actively fielding calls simultaneously.
“The National Operations Center has so much redundant capacity built into it that there was never a doubt that it could handle the call-load,” said Ido Rosenblat, Magen David Adom’s chief information officer, who oversees technology at the organization. “The challenge became where to put all the people we need to handle the calls and have the human bandwidth so that the call-takers could spend sufficient time with each caller to address their concerns.”
Each workstation is staffed by two call-takers: a dispatcher for standard medical emergencies such as heart attacks and car accidents, and one dedicated to answering calls about coronavirus. Government advice to Israeli citizens who are concerned about coronavirus is to call 101 and talk to an emergency responder. 
“It’s conceivable that we’ll create even more workstations,” Rosenblat said. “But the alternative is having someone who’s symptomatic who can’t get help and goes to a hospital or clinic in violation of what the government is urging people do to — which is to call 101 and talk to one of our EMTs.
“If they go to the hospital by themselves, they risk infecting others, including healthcare workers. And that’s something we have to avoid for everyone’s sake — including the patient’s.”
"In Israel, we have the protectors of the people, Magen David Adom, and the Israel Defense Forces, which are the people's shield and the army of the nation," said Rivlin as he unveiled the Ramla facility. "It is natural that the forces work together as in every moment of danger. Everyone trusts you and knows that there is someone to trust."
The president urged citizens to listen to instructions concerning the outbreak.
"Often we are a little disrespectful to the instructions or we think, 'They are very important to others, not to us,'" said Rivlin. "We must take great care to follow every directive that we are commanded to do, for it has been knowledgeably decided, with the thought of avoiding any danger that is worrying us all. I came here to thank you and I thank you."
In addition to the increase in call-taking, MDA has put a number of other measures in place, including launching a blood drive. "Due to a growing number of citizens in home isolation that are unable to donate blood and in order to prevent a national blood shortage, MDA blood services has decided to conduct multiple special blood drives," the organization posted to Facebook.

"MDA is at the forefront of the corona fight, and as the national EMS organization, it does so with pride, dedication and endless sense of mission. I would like to thank each and every one of you from MDA, whose dedication is a source of national pride," said MDA Director General Eli Bin at the inauguration event.