A new world of emergency medicine
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A new world of emergency medicine

Western Galilee's emergency preparedness and underground hospital

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Western Galilee has an underground hospital, but is planning to make its above-ground hospital safer.

Western Galilee Hospital has more than 700 beds and a staff of 330 physicians and 850 nurses, organized into 61 departments and units. “We are busier than Holy Name, with the same size staff,” said Dr. Arie Eisenman, head of the Medical Emergency Room at Western Galilee. Each year there are approximately 120,000 ER visits (compared with 44,000 at Holy Name), 60,000 hospitalizations (vs. 26,000 at Holy Name), 15,000 surgical procedures, 28,000 dialysis treatments, and 6,500 births per year (compared with about 1,200 per year at Holy Name).

Since it is a teaching hospital affiliated with Technion Medical School in Haifa, Western Galilee also trains medical students and residents. Eisenman reported that the hospital has an award-winning Continuous Quality Management program, which is involved with maintaining high standards in patient care and maintenance of facilities.

Eisenman showed videos of the underground hospital, the only one in Israel, and one of few worldwide. The facility has 400 beds, and its wards are unique in that they are linked by corridors wide enough to accommodate ambulances. “We can unload patients even under fire,” said Eisenman. The facility has a separate air purification system. “It is proofed against all kinds of threats – chemical warfare, biological warfare, nuclear warfare,” he said. It has stores of food, medicine, water, and sources of electricity. “There are enough goods in the facility to keep us alive in quite good condition for about six weeks.”

The hospital is also working on construction to protect the facilities above ground level. “We learned from the war that some people, especially old people, are difficult to move during an emergency,” said Eisenman. Both of the new facilities will be built with specially reinforced walls to withstand attacks. “We are building a brand new protected Geriatric Center, so we won’t have to move patients. The Women’s Health Center will also be protected by thick walls against all kinds of weaponry.”

Western Galilee Hospital’s guidelines during emergency situations were presented to the audience of emergency responders, including Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Holy Name Hospital EMTs, Teaneck police officers, and Holy Name emergency-room personnel. Eisenman explained that all Western Galilee employees must be accessible 24 hours a day so that, during a mass-casualty event, staff can be mobilized as needed. All the regular patients are evacuated from the ER, either by moving them to hospital rooms or sending them home. All routine elective surgery, imaging, and lab work is stopped. All the ER stretchers are empty and awaiting patients. Medical personnel are assembled at the ambulance bays and the ER, awaiting incoming patients.

If “Stage 2″ is declared (more than 20 casualties expected), then the hospital is closed to visitors and additional treatment sites may be opened. An information center, with defined staff, is established to answer questions from relatives of victims. “Social workers have special training for that,” said Eisenman. “We try to do our best to relieve anxieties and try to locate any potential relative of family that calls who might be in the hospital.”

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