Kassam bursts Barzilai's unfortified 'bubble'

Money belatedly approved for plan to protect emergency room where rocket victims are treated.

kassam remnants 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
kassam remnants 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Emergency room staff at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center went into shock when a Kassam rocket landed near the helipad a few hundred meters from the workers on Wednesday night, according to hospital deputy director-general Dr. Ron Lobel. "We have no fortification at all, even for the emergency room and surgical theaters, not to mention delivery rooms and the dialysis unit. We in the hospital live in a kind of bubble, saving lives and treating patients while ignoring what is going around us," Lobel said. "But in this case, our bubble exploded." When Kassam attacks were launched by Palestinian terrorists on Sderot seven years ago, the government hospital prepared a detailed program for fortifying the emergency room and other important areas. But the Treasury did not allocate any funds for it, and nothing happened. More recently, donors in the US and Europe gave a total of $40 million - or 75 percent of the cost - toward the project, and the Treasury finally agreed to pay the rest. But that plan does not include other vital and vulnerable parts of the hospital, noted Lobel, who lives in a nearby kibbutz that has also been the target of rockets. "I know we have 17 seconds after the siren to take cover. How can staff do anything to move patients in such a short time?" There is underground space for a maximum of 100 patients, but it is impossible to get them there in time, he said. "We would need a total of $100 million to fortify the most critical areas, and we don't have the money." Fortunately, the rocket on Wednesday did not wound anyone or cause any physical damage, "but the effect was dramatic," said Lobel. "When I returned to the emergency room, I saw all the doctors, nurses and other staffers were in shock. But these are professionals, and it abated over the next few hours. "We have warned the government for years that we are very close, only 12 kilometers from the border and the rocket launchers. The evacuation of the Gaza Strip made it even closer. There have been so many rockets in the last four years, and it has been our hospital that has primarily treated the victims," Lobel said. The Health Ministry tries, the hospital administrator said, "but it is not enough. It's a very slow system, a dinosaur. We need work slots for more doctors and nurses and more equipment. The wounded also require social workers and psychologists, who get very low pay and no compensation for night shifts. They come in to help as volunteers."