More than meets the eye

Although small in scale, the new Sam­son As­suta Ash­dod Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal packs quite a punch by en­sur­ing that pa­tients are given the best treat­ment in both war and peace­time

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - LETTERS - By NOA AMOUYAL

As kites set ablaze are be­ing hurled from Gaza across the bor­der into Is­rael, res­i­dents in the coun­try’s South are ter­ri­fied. They worry that an es­ca­la­tion may oc­cur and what the dam­age will be. They worry about their chil­dren if they are forced to evac­u­ate their homes. They worry if the next round with Gaza will be more haunt­ing than the last.

Sam­son As­suta Ash­dod Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal, which opened its doors last year, can at least put their mind at ease when it comes to one very crit­i­cal as­pect of life – health­care.

As the na­tion’s first new pub­lic hos­pi­tal in 40 years, As­suta Ash­dod has as­sem­bled a team of med­i­cal and se­cu­rity ex­perts to en­sure that the hos­pi­tal is a welloiled ma­chine in times of war, but also in peace.

The 70,000-square-me­ter (750,000-square-foot) fa­cil­ity, with 250 doc­tors and 500 nurses, brought to the city a new game-chang­ing model for pop­u­la­tion health man­age­ment and in­te­grated care: the de­lib­er­ate co­or­di­na­tion of pa­tient care be­tween the hos­pi­tal’s med­i­cal staff and com­mu­nity health­care providers – sav­ing lives, im­prov­ing pa­tient out­come and in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency.

But at its core, the hos­pi­tal prides it­self as be­ing a bea­con of safety for Is­rael’s South.

At the helm is Prof. Joshua “Shuki” She­mer, a for­mer IDF sur­geon gen­eral, whose main pri­or­ity is pro­tect­ing and treat­ing the 250,000 res­i­dents of Ash­dod, the coun­try’s fifth largest city, as well as an ad­di­tional quar­ter mil­lion in the re­gion.

Un­til now, res­i­dents had to travel to Barzi­lai Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Ashkelon or Ka­plan Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Re­hovot for treat­ment, in an emer­gency a jour­ney that was in­con­ve­nient at best and deadly at worst.

“There was a ne­ces­sity to build a hos­pi­tal to serve the peo­ple in Ash­dod in peace and war,” She­mer as­serted, claim­ing the hos­pi­tal is do­ing much to boost the city’s re­silience.

As such, the hos­pi­tal is heav­ily pro­tected in the event of rocket at­tacks, chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare and even earth­quakes.

As ru­mors of war con­tinue to swirl, in this un­cer­tain and tense cli­mate, it is im­por­tant that res­i­dents know this a hos­pi­tal they can rely on.

“I think that since we opened the hos­pi­tal it

strength­ened our re­silience in time of peace. Ash­dod res­i­dents are more se­cure than they were be­fore,” he said.

She­mer, who spent decades serv­ing the IDF, knows of what he speaks. “This is part of my DNA. All my pro­fes­sional life I was re­spon­si­ble for na­tional pre­pared­ness in times of war and peace,” he said.

As such, well be­fore the hos­pi­tal broke ground, plan­ning was un­der way to en­sure no stone was left un­turned re­gard­ing safety.

Top hos­pi­tal brass con­sulted with IDF Home Front Com­mand of­fi­cers and Health Min­istry of­fi­cials to en­sure that all pro­to­cols were in place.

Like She­mer, As­suta has re­cruited many physi­cians who also have a rich his­tory of ser­vice in the mil­i­tary.

Dr. Yu­val Bloch, med­i­cal di­rec­tor at As­suta Med­i­cal Cen­ter Ris­hon Lezion, for ex­am­ple, has a CV that is a per­fect hy­brid of de­fense and med­i­cal know-how that ex­em­pli­fies much of the hos­pi­tal’s se­nior staff.

As the doc­tor re­spon­si­ble for emer­gency pre­pared­ness in his pre­vi­ous job at Hadas­sah Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Jerusalem, Bloch of­ten gives lec­tures on pub­lic health in times of cri­sis.

“This is an im­por­tant hobby of mine,” said Bloch, who is also a re­serve of­fi­cer at IDF’s Home Front Com­mand.

Bloch spent more than a year plan­ning the hos­pi­tal emer­gency pre­pared­ness pro­to­cols with Dr. Hadar Marom, deputy di­rec­tor of As­suta Ash­dod.

“To build a new hos­pi­tal from scratch in that short amount of time and to cre­ate a team of peo­ple who haven’t worked to­gether takes a lot of thought and plan­ning,” Bloch said.

Marom and Bloch were in­te­gral to the plan­ning stages of the hos­pi­tal and were re­spon­si­ble for risk man­age­ment, qual­ity as­sur­ance and emer­gency pre­pared­ness.

“Ash­dod is lo­cated just 16 miles from the Gaza Strip. When we de­cided to build the hos­pi­tal, our first pri­or­ity was to build a ‘rocket-safe’ hos­pi­tal us­ing a bomb shel­ter de­sign to pro­tect pa­tients and staff. This en­sures that we can work with­out in­ter­rup­tion dur­ing times of con­flict,” said Marom, the pre­vi­ous head of the IDF Med­i­cal Ser­vices Branch who re­tired three years ago with the rank of lieu­tenant-colonel.

“It is known that in Is­rael the home front be­comes the bat­tle­ground it­self. We saw this in pre­vi­ous wars and op­er­a­tions. Hos­pi­tals be­come a very frag­ile place if they are not pro­tected be­cause you have to move pa­tients to a pro­tected area, which is very chal­leng­ing.”

So what hap­pens in the event war does break out? The hos­pi­tal goes into over­drive mode re­gard­ing its lo­gis­tics. As the hos­pi­tal’s head of op­er­a­tions, Danny Moshayov lives and breathes this pos­si­ble sce­nario ev­ery day.

“My job is to make sure we can pro­vide the best care for the pa­tients. I’m in charge of lo­gis­tics re­gard­ing en­gi­neer­ing, med­i­cal sup­plies, food and more,” he ex­plained. “I also wear an­other hat – I’m in charge of the IDF’s Home Front Com­mand re­quire­ments for times of war.”

Moshayov is part of a spe­cial team re­spon­si­ble for mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness that in­cludes him­self, Marom and Anat Raz, the hos­pi­tal’s risk man­age­ment co­or­di­na­tor.

This en­tails writ­ing man­u­als de­tail­ing what each staff mem­ber must do in an emer­gency and ex­e­cut­ing drills so that when dis­as­ter does strike, the hos­pi­tal is ready for ac­tion.

“Drills sim­u­late a mass ca­su­alty event. We sim­u­late a car ac­ci­dent or a bomb­ing and, in part­ner­ship with Ma­gen David Adom, we bring the ‘pa­tients’ to the ER and the en­tire ER is over­hauled as they in­stantly switch from their reg­u­lar rou­tine to emer­gency mode,” he said.

This will in­clude, for ex­am­ple, mov­ing the triage to the main ER en­trance, mov­ing vi­tal equip­ment to where doc­tors will be sta­tioned and call­ing in spe­cial­ist physi­cians and nurses from all de­part­ments.

Un­for­tu­nately, Is­rael is quite ex­pe­ri­enced in con­flict and, as the first pub­lic hos­pi­tal built in the coun­try in four decades, As­suta has ben­e­fited from learn­ing lessons rang­ing from the First Le­banon War to Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge.

That said, the hos­pi­tal is not rest­ing on its lau­rels. It’s still very ea­ger to ex­pand on what it has ac­com­plished dur­ing its short life­span. Specif­i­cally, it hopes to add 500 hos­pi­tal beds un­der­ground, to en­sure the safety of more pa­tients in a time of emer­gency.

It is a dream of Prof. She­mer, and one that is sup­ported by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, but as of yet has not come to fruition.

While pre­par­ing for mis­sile strikes from Gaza is crit­i­cal – Ash­dod res­i­dents only have 45 sec­onds to find shel­ter should a siren go off – there are many other un­ex­pected events the hos­pi­tal must take into ac­count.

For ex­am­ple, in April, a fire in an apart­ment build­ing broke out and 30 small chil­dren were evac­u­ated to the new hos­pi­tal.

Had the ac­ci­dent hap­pened over a year ago, the chil­dren would have had to travel a greater dis­tance to re­ceive emer­gency treat­ment.

“Ev­ery time some­one from Ash­dod comes to this hos­pi­tal they are over­whelmed. This hos­pi­tal saves lives ev­ery day,” he said. “They are in good hands be­cause we are here.” ■

This ar­ti­cle was writ­ten in co­op­er­a­tion with Sam­son As­suta Ash­dod Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal

‘I think that since we opened the hos­pi­tal it strength­ened our re­silience in time of peace. Ash­dod res­i­dents are more se­cure than they were be­fore’ – Prof. Joshua ‘Shuki’ She­mer

(Oded Karni)

A BUSTLING hall­way with As­suta med­i­cal per­son­nel at work.

(Oded Karni)

AS­SUTA STAFF rush a pa­tient to the hos­pi­tal through its emer­gency en­trance.

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