Magen David Adom: A vision of dedication, determination to save lives

"MDA was established by a group of volunteers 92 years ago. Volunteers play an essential role, not only in the organization, but also in shaping the face of Israeli society as a whole."

 Eli Bin, the CEO of MDA (photo credit: COURTESY MDA)
Eli Bin, the CEO of MDA
(photo credit: COURTESY MDA)

In the last two and a half years, Eli Bin, the Director General of MDA, has been leading the national Emergency Medical and Blood Services organization  while facing one of the most significant challenges that he remembers from his decades of service in the organization. “MDA’s many years of preparation, the response to a variety of emergency incidents and the organization’s ability to adapt quickly to dynamic situations, to learn from experience, while continuing to develop methods and means to increase efficiency, all of these together enable us to meet the most complex challenges at the national level,” explains Bin. The national fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus “caught” MDA ready and prepared for any challenge created by the new and complex reality.

What are the routine challenges that have become more acute during the Covid-19 pandemic?

“Naturally, MDA’s routine is an emergency routine; therefore we are required to continuously maintain the high level of qualifications and skills of the staff members and the various means to respond to emergencies, security escalations and other challenges. Our routine activities present us with many challenges, which vary over the years.

“In the past, for example, we faced the challenges of spreading out our EMT’s (emergency medical teams) and mobile intensive care units [ambulances], and training a large number of paramedics. As MDA trains all the paramedics in Israel, promoting the paramedic profession is a big challenge, and in recent years, we have increased the number of paramedics thus changing the face of emergency medicine in Israel. 

“Another challenge we have faced in recent years is reducing theresponse times of the emergency calls. We did this by increasing the number of emergency medical professionalson-call and spreading them out, developing and implementing new technologies and collaborations with local authorities. All the mentioned above helped out MDA, which in turn benefited the people of Israel before and especiallyduring the pandemic, since MDA had the professionals, the technologies and the capacities to develop COVID-19 response mechanism while maintaining its daily emergency response”.

What is MDA’s main challenge today?

“One of our main challenges in the field of emergency medical services is providing personalized medical treatment to each and every patient, using advanced technology. This is actually the future of medicine. In the past, every call to MDA would result in the evacuation of the patient to the hospital. Due to the overload at the hospitals’ emergency departments and MDA’s ability to use advanced technology, we have created the “MDA in the community” Project, which aims to make the services of the emergency medicine department and medical specialists available to all.

 “As part of the project, MDA emergency teams will be equipped to provide remote medical  assistance (telemedicine) and the means to perform blood tests at the patient’s home. Upon arrival to the scene, the EMT’s will be able to consult with a specialist in the field, and according to the findings, the specialist can determine the course of treatment, which sometimes includes keeping the patient at home, instead of hospitalization. 

“Enabling such service will result in significant budget savings on the part of the healthcare system. We have already purchased the medical equipment for the project with the help of the Israel National Lottery and other donors. MDA is prepared for the immediate activation of the project, and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Health.”

MDA’s blood services are in fact Israel’s national blood services, and carry the responsibility for ensuring the blood supply in routine and emergency situations. Not a small challenge.

“Indeed, it is a complex challenge. In the field of blood services, our constant challenge is the need to maintain the bloodstock sufficiency for the day-to-day operations of the hospitals, and even increase it, in order to provide solutions to various extreme scenarios. “MDA’s ability to be flexible and perform flawlessly during emergency situation led us to change our perception. Instead of encouraging citizens to come to the mobile blood donation unit, we bring the unit to residential areas and encourage the citizens to come down from their homes and donate blood.

Due to MDA’s Blood Services experience and capacity in recruiting donors, collecting and processing and deliveringblood components, the State of Israel asked us to establish the National Human Milk Bank. The human milk is essential for premature babies and we are proud for being part of the efforts to save their lives. MDA Human Milk Bank teamsprocessthe Milk units collected by breastfeeding mothers and provide them to the hospitals for feed of the premature babies

MDA is known for its capital human resource -the volunteers. Tell us about them.

“MDA was established by a group of volunteers 92 years ago. Volunteers play an essential role, not only in the organization, but also in shaping the face of Israeli society as a whole. One of the main emphases in volunteering at MDA is professional equality: there is no difference between a volunteer and a paid employee. I believe that the sense of responsibility, along with their ability to perform under stress with such dedication, enables the volunteers to acquire values that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. 

“In recent years, we’ve undergone through a process of improving the service and increasing the number of volunteers per neighborhoods, settlements and villages. “In addition, we have invested great efforts in increasing the number of volunteers from minority communities and sectors. Today, MDA is the largest volunteers organization in Israel, with tens of thousands of volunteers, from the age of 15 to the age of 82.

 The new blood bank (credit: COURTESY MDA) The new blood bank (credit: COURTESY MDA)

And what about the financial challenges, to what extent do the activities depend on donations and the Friends’ societies of MDA?

“MDA faces national emergency challenges and is mandated by law to carry out the function to be an auxiliary service of the Israeli government in times of emergencies. However, MDA is not budgeted by the Israeli Government. All the emergency equipment, advanced technology and trainings, purchase of ambulances and Mobile Intensive Care Units, strategic projects like the establishment of the new Blood Bank and MDA’s national headquarters ,are made possible thanks to the generosity of donors from Israel and around the world.

 “Those who are familiar with the world of fundraising know that the field is undergoing a significant change and is becoming more and more complex. The Friends of MDA associations in Israel and around the world are investing great efforts to enable the continuation of fundraising.