Hatzalah, as always, there for us


Fulfilling a desire to be there for people in their time of need, Lawrence resident Rabbi Elozer Kanner, has served as a volunteer for Hatzalah of the Rockaways and Nassau County for26 years,. Along with fellow coordinators Louis Wolcowitz and Mark Gross, Rabbi Kanner’s most recent campaign is aimed at delivering the message that “They (Hatzalah) were there for me when I called them, they’re there for me even when I don’t need them. Rabbi Kanner points out that the potential for need is greater than actuality in every circumstance.

Hatzalah recently raised $750,000 to replace three ambulances. Their most recent campaign was dedicated to raising an additional $750,000 to replace 30 Lifepak 12s with 30 Lifepak 15s. Just about the size of a rollable suitcase, the Lifepak15 is a cardiac monitor that does a host of things that its predecessor could not . Rabbi Kanner is quick to make the point that many of us aren’t comfortable driving a car that is more than 5 years old, and we shouldn’t be complacent with a 15 year old piece of equipment that is crucial in saving a life. Paramedic Shlomo Katz appreciated the difference a cardiac monitor makes and undertook an initiative to raise the necessary funds. He went from shul to shul, lobbying for the need for funding and successfully raised the requisite amount.

At the May fundraiser, Woodmere resident Charlie Harary noted that Hatzalah services everyone, regardless of their financial contribution to the organization. “There is no connection between service and support,” Rabbi Kanner said. He also makes special mention of the rule that if a responder takes money, or a donation at a call, it’s grounds for immediate dismissal. “We are supported in advance to be prepared in case the public needs us, there is no quid pro quo.”

In 2010, Hatzalah responded to 4600 calls. Staffed with 100 trained responders, 23 of whom are paramedics or doctors, they are proud of their seven fully equipped ambulances, two housed in Woodmere, one in Belle Harbor and four in Far Rockaway.

Addressing a wide variety of medical concerns, some emergent in nature and some less acute, Hatzalah has responded to the latter concern by way of the Shabbos Taxi Voucher program. In conjunction with Towne Taxi of Lawrence, a person seeking medical attention but not acute may call this taxi service indicating that Hatzalah recommended them. Towne Taxi in turn bills Hatzalah. In many cases, a patient who gets brought in on Shabbat may have to go home. This program has cost Hatzalah upwards of $18,000 a year.

Looking ahead, Hatzalah’s latest undertaking is a two-year project to build a new building at its new location in Woodmere, at the intersection of West Broadway and Grant Avenue. Having successfully battled in the courts against a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) pushback, Hatzalah looks forward to begining construction, though no groundbreaking date has been set. Rabbi Kanner is adamant about Hatzalah’s sensitivity to the neighbors at its existing locations. “We come and go as quietly as possible.”

Hatzalah aims to go to the nearest hospital. “We walk a narrow line between patient safety and accommodating patient’s choice,” Rabbi Kanner said. “When it’s medically feasible we try to accommodate a patient choice.”

Consistent with Chanukah, celebrating the festival of lights, Rabbi Kanner implores residents to have a well-lit and clearly visible home address sign or numbers. “We need to be able to find you in order to help you!” He also stresses the importance of checking the batteries on Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors. Lastly but very important, is the issue of unblocking caller IDs. When caller IDs are not blocked, Hatzalah’s Computer Dispatch System can be the difference in saving lives.

For more information about supporting Hatzalah, please go to their website www.hatzalahrl.org.