No longer the ‘white elephant of Herzl Boulevard'

With the opening of its New Generation building, Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s facility for premature babies is the world’s largest.

Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s
When Shaare Zedek Medical Center was asked by the government to run the bankrupt Bikur Cholim Hospital last year, the addition of the 5,000 annual deliveries from the smaller institution brought the center’s total annual births up to 20,000.
Now, with the inauguration of facilities in its adjacent New Generation building, SZMC has the largest facility for premature babies in the world – room for 70 tiny infants at a time. Concurrently, a new obstetrics department – the hospital’s fourth – was also dedicated, with a banner outside boasting that it is “like a hotel.”
The opening was celebrated on Monday by more than 100 staffers and guests, in the newly built courtyard snuggled between the 35-year-old main building and the 10-story addition that will be fully occupied by the end of the year. The building, which was planned, constructed and equipped at a cost of $130 million in donations, will house spacious, cheerful obstetrics wards for new mothers, delivery rooms, neonatal wards for regular-sized newborns and pediatrics wards for 150 children of all ages.
Besides being buoyant because of new life entering the world, obstetrics departments and delivery rooms are good business for any hospital, said SZMC’s longtime director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy at the ceremony.
The National Insurance Institute pays hospitals directly and generously for delivering babies, the majority of them full-term and the minority premature babies who need round-the-clock care for as long as six months.
HALEVY NOTED that in 1979, when his predecessor, visionary Prof. David Maier, planned and opened SZMC’s large, 10-story premises (with two empty floors for eventual expansion) opposite Mount Herzl – after leaving the historic 1902 building on Jaffa Road – critics claimed it would be “the white elephant of Herzl Boulevard.” This has long been disproved, Halevy said.
About a quarter of SZMC’s annual income comes from this source, said Halevy, who is only the medical center’s fourth permanent director-general in its 112- year history.
The planning team had visited neonatal intensive care units in leading hospitals abroad and reached the conclusion that SZMC’s own would be “among the best in the world,” said the director-general.
The neonatal intensive care facility, which respirates tiny newborns, has only two incubators per room, at a distance of 1.6 meters from each other, and the intensivemonitoring section has six beds in each room. This means that more infants will survive and thrive, as one of the biggest dangers in neonatal intensive care is preventing nosocomial (in-house) infections – spread easily via close proximity. These infections are common in other hospitals and take a heavy toll on premature newborns, according to recent state comptroller’s reports.
The new unit has a magnetic-resonance instrument (MRI) specifically for newborns – the first in Israel and one of the few of its kind in the world. This is necessary, according to chief of neonatology Prof.
Francis Mimouni, not only to save their lives, but also to prevent brain damage from lack of oxygen and to treat internal bleeding and infections.
Mimouni, who specializes in the care of infants born before they reach full term, was previously head of pediatrics at SZMC and then moved to Tel Aviv Sourasky’s Dana-Dwek Children’s Hospital, but returned to the Jerusalem medical center to run the new facility. Mimouni surprised and entertained those present by playing Spanish songs on an electronic guitar, built from little more than the fretboard.
Also present at the ceremony were Prof. Uzi Beller, chairman of gynecology; Prof. Arnon Samueloff, head of the maternity department; Prof. Michael Kaplan, who heads neonatology at the Bikur Cholim branch; and other SZMC senior doctors and nurses.