As Operation Protective Edge proceeds, Soroka Medical Center plays a critical role for Israel: treating wounded IDF soldiers as well as civilians wounded by missile strikes and those suffering psychological trauma. Located in Be’er Sheva and the sole major medical center for the entire south of Israel, Soroka responded to the situation by taking steps to prepare for any eventuality, and to ensure the safety of its patients, especially those in units not yet “protected” against missile attack.
IDF helicopters have been landing around-the-clock at Soroka, transporting the most seriously injured soldiers. Col. Raslan Alian, the Golani brigade commander who was seriously injured in fighting Saturday night, is recovering from his injuries at Soroka; despite his serious injuries, he is visiting members of his brigade who are also there. It was here that the first Israeli civilian killed in the latest round of fighting was brought after he was fatally wounded in a mortar attack at the Erez crossing while delivering food to soldiers. It was here, as well, that two Bedouin sisters were brought after they were hit by shrapnel while playing outside and where a seriously injured Bedouin baby was brought for treatment a few days ago following a rocket attack that killed her father. Many government ministers and MKs have been visiting Soroka to offer encouragement to the hospital staff, visit the wounded, and see firsthand the remarkable work being done.
Dr. Ehud Davidson, director of Soroka Medical Center, stated, “In light of the escalation in the security situation in the south we began deployment. On July 7, we took the decision to move the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to sheltered quarters, moving 57 babies, families, and staff, including 23 preemies, five of whom are on respirators.” The hospital is operating in concert with the Home Front Command and the Supreme Hospitalization Authority. All personnel in critical positions (surgeons, trauma, and emergency room specialists, anesthesiologists, nurses, and others) are on call and ready to be at the hospital within a very short time, day or night. Unfortified departments have been transferred to protected areas and additional operating rooms were opened there. The blood bank supplies have been augmented, as have medical equipment and medication inventories.
“The Soroka neonatal department is the busiest and one of the leading neonatal departments in Israel. Its building is not protected against rocket attack; given our great concern for the safety of the tiniest and most vulnerable of the patients for whom we care, we have decided that we must now move them to a protected area within the hospital.” The minister of health, MK Mrs. Yael German, visited Soroka Medical Center to see firsthand the preparedness of the hospital in light of the escalation in the security situation in the area. She visited the temporary neonatal ward set up last night to accommodate dozens of newborns and preemies, some in critical condition. MK German said: “The Soroka neonatal ward staff carried out an unimaginable feat, swiftly moving the department and its tiny patients. Very few countries in the world need ever cope with such a reality. The Soroka staff certainly deserves a badge of merit for their speedy, intense, but extremely careful work.”
The Soroka NICU staff has gained experience in this type of emergency evacuation during Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense, and additional escalations of the security situation during recent years. Just last month, Dr. Agneta Golan, the director of the Soroka NICU, visited New York City for the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center Gala, which was dedicated to raising the funds necessary to build a new, protected building. While in New York Citty, she visited the New York University Medical Center NICU, in solidarity with her American colleagues who had to evacuate the NYU NICU during Hurricane Sandy. Since 2008, Soroka has had to relocate its unit five times for safety. This heart-wrenching and dramatic operation is undertaken in consultation with the IDF Home Front Command, and only when the risk of staying in place exceeds the risk of the relocation.
One of Israel’s largest, and its busiest, hospital, Soroka is the sole major medical center for the entire Negev, which comprises 60% of Israel’s land. An intensely multicultural hospital, it serves as an example and symbol of peaceful coexistence.
Centers of excellence within the hospital include trauma care, cancer care, genetics, clinical research, pediatrics, and psychiatric care. The hospital is responsible for the health and emergency care of a million people, including 400,000 children and many IDF soldiers, since it serves as the only medical center on the southern front. Soroka must now grow by 30%, given anticipated rapid population growth, the IDF moving more bases and operations to the Negev, and Be’er Sheva’s evolving transformation into a high-tech center.
Now Soroka stands prepared and ready to fulfill its mission of “Defending Israel’s Health.” Additional information is available at www.soroka.org, or by calling 914-725-9070. Donations designated to help provide emergency services can be sent to American Friends of Soroka Medical Center, P.O. Box 184-H, Scarsdale, NY 10583. ϖ