Under the expert guidance of IDF Home Front Command, Israeli hospitals across the country are shoring up their ability to shift into war mode should a sudden conflict erupt without prior warning. In such a scenario, hospitals could, like the rest of the country, find themselves under heavy fire, yet still must be able to provide life-saving care for existing patients and the war-wounded.
On Thursday, the Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat in northern Israel held an intensive drill, simulating a situation in which it came under heavy rocket fire from Hezbollah and still had to function as a hospital.
The exercise came weeks after Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus held a similar drill.
Maj.-Gen. Merav Shavi-Sultan, head of the Hospital Preparations Department in the Home Front Command, told JNS that work goes on year-round to prepare the civilian health-care system for such emergencies.
“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 and the reality in which this is an issue that we deal with all of the time.”
‘We hope this scenario never materializes’
During the exercise, which Ziv personnel spent eight months preparing for, the medical center practiced receiving 50 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 essential point of the training is to see how effectively the hospital can transition 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?” explained the officer.
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—for example, at home or in their communities. This cleared 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 cyber attack, which could disrupt blood laboratories or patient records.
It then began testing its ability to move patients to rocket-proof protected zones—in this case, an auditorium fitted ahead of time with power supplies, water, gas and all of the necessary medical equipment. The auditorium housed 100 beds.
“When the day of the drill arrives, we check the ability of the hospital to run many simultaneous incidents within a short period of 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 [as part of the drill], the hospital declared a mass-casualty incident,” said Shavi-Sultan.
Every Israeli hospital now has instructions and preparations on how to move patients away from areas prone to rocket strikes and into rocket-proof 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.”