Life-saving cooperation

The bottom line is that when someone calls an emergency service number for an ambulance, he may not reach the emergency personnel who are closest to the victim.

MDA on the scene at the a-Zaim checkpoint  (photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
MDA on the scene at the a-Zaim checkpoint
(photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
Israel is a world leader in emergency medical aid. The tiny Jewish state is disproportionately represented across the globe as a provider of assistance in disaster-stricken zones and has developed unique and innovative ways to provide first aid quicker and more efficiently.
The reasons for this are many: Judaism places a high value on life, and as a result, Jews have a long tradition of excelling in medicine. Many of Israel’s impressive technological innovations are in the field of medicine. Also, in its short lifespan, Israel, more than most states, has been forced to cope with the ravages of war and terrorism. Providing quick, efficient medical aid is particularly relevant to Israel’s day to day reality.
But while Israel has made a name for itself internationally as an expert in dealing with mass-casualty incidents, at-home infighting between two truly exceptional first-aid organizations might be endangering the lives of Israelis.
Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah have a long history of tense relations. In recent months, however, there has been a deterioration. Last month, UH launched a campaign calling on people to contact UH, not MDA , in cases of emergency. It was accompanied by a nationwide radio advertising campaign. It was also reported that UH has stopped providing MDA with the phone numbers of people who contacted UH for first aid.
MDA has stopped sharing information with UH about emergency calls. The online haredi news site B’hadrei Haredim also reported that UH will begin offering ambulance services – on a limited basis with plans to expand in the future. This seemed to be a direct challenge to MDA as it would hurt the organization’s income from ambulance services.
The bottom line is that when someone calls an emergency service number for an ambulance, he may not reach the emergency personnel who are closest to the victim.
101 sometimes and unpredictably goes only to MDA while 1221 goes to United Hatzalah.
It is an absurd situation when a person in distress has to call two numbers to insure speedy service.
The fighting between MDA and UH has to stop. Both organizations have important, complementary services to offer the nation. Instead of wasting energy fighting each other they must return to doing what both do best – saving lives. Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has an important role to play. He has an obligation to intervene and force these two important organizations to start cooperating.
Litzman has had several meetings with both sides and even signed agreements, but they have not held.
MDA is the larger organizations, providing a wide range of services from blood collection, processing and supply to emergency medical training for laymen, paramedics and medics. MDA provides humanitarian aid to disaster-hit locations around the world; it collects food for those in need; it tracks down lost people; it conducts workshops worldwide on how to manage mass casualty events.
As reported by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, The Jerusalem Post’s health and science editor, MDA employs more than 2,000, has 14,000 volunteers and operates 3,500 first responders.
It has about 1,000 ambulances, including 150 intensive care units. It has 400 motorcycles and two helicopters.
UH, in contrast, is much smaller and focuses primarily on rapid response. The organizations has about 3,000 volunteers and employs ambucycles that can provide first aid and transportation to the hospital. What UH lacks in size, however, it more than makes up for in speed and efficiency.
Response times are remarkably fast, particularly in the cities where hundreds of volunteers are concentrated. UH has deployed an advanced GPS tracking technology and has expanded the community-based model first launched in American Jewish neighborhoods to a nationwide model.
For its part, MDA has bought ambucycles, making it more efficient at getting to the scene quickly.
MDA and UH need to put aside their differences and begin working together for the greater good of all. Each organization has unique capabilities. Instead of competing, they should be complementing each other.
Israel is a world leader in rapid response medical care. UH and MDA have developed technologies and organizational frameworks that have significantly improved life-saving capabilities. It is a shame that pointless infighting undermines the efficiency of these two important organizations.