health mind and body

Hospitals eye a transition to war


Under the guidance of IDF Home Front Command, Israeli hospitals are shoring up their ability to shift into war mode should conflict erupt without warning. Hospitals could find themselves under heavy fire, yet still must be able to care for existing patients and the war-wounded.

Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat last week held an intensive drill simulating heavy rocket fire from Hezbollah, weeks after Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus held a similar exercise.

Maj.-Gen. Merav Shavi-Sultan, head of the Hospital Preparations Department in the Home Front Command, told JNS that preparation for such emergencies goes on year-round.

“The readiness of the State of Israel, in light of incidents in past years, causes us to always think about emergencies,” she said. “Hospitals are inseparable part of this event. They understand where they are.”

During the exercise, for which staff spent months preparing, the medical center practiced receiving patients “injured” by enemy fire while the city sustained rocket barrages. All the while, the hospital experienced power failures and infrastructure crashes as part of the simulation.

The point of the training is to see how effectively the hospital transitions from routine operations into war mode. This includes testing how quickly it can transfer patients and equipment away from departments that do not have rocket-reinforcement protection to those that do, how able it is to create a “situation assessment of its resources, and whether or not they know what their red lines are when their resources deplete.”

As soon as the hospital established that the country was in a state of war, it began sending away “patients” who could be cared for elsewhere, clearing beds ahead of the arrival of dozens of incoming patients suffering from mock-war injuries.

The hospital also had to check on its ability to function under a cyberattack, which could disrupt blood laboratories or patient records.

It tested its ability to move patients to rocket-proof protected zones—here, an auditorium fitted ahead of time with power supplies, water, gas and all of the necessary medical equipment.

“When the day of the drill arrives, we check the ability of the hospital to run many simultaneous incidents in a short time,” said Shavi-Sultan.

The drill included the scenario of direct rocket strikes on the hospital and the need to evacuate potentially damaged departments. Patient evacuations from higher floors, involving rescue efforts by the fire service, were also practiced.

“During these movements [that] Tzfat was under ‘fire,’ the hospital declared a mass-casualty incident,” said Shavi-Sultan.

Every Israeli hospital is now prepared to move patients away from areas prone to rocket strikes and into reinforced areas. “Last month, we carried out an exercise at Rambam that can set up 2,000 beds in an underground parking lot. The underground lot already has its own generators,” said the officer.

“Ziv had an excellent drill; it is very well-prepared,” she stated. “We see that hospitals are ready for emergencies. We do all we can to prepare and hope this scenario never materializes.”