IDF Field Hospital in line for world’s top ranking

Banner at IDF field hospital (Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

With no expectation of accolades or recognition – and often with harsh criticism and condemnation in the background – Israel has been providing high caliber medical treatment and humanitarian aid to countries around the world in disaster situations.

The World Health Organization is considering awarding the IDF Medical Corps’ field hospital its highest ranking, which would make Israel’s the first in the world to qualify for that classification.

Three years ago, headed up by Emergency Medicine Specialist Dr. Ian Norton, WHO wrote a classification system for foreign medical teams that assist in what is called “sudden-onset disasters.” The 91-page system lists the requirements for classification. Ranking is determined by the number of patients that can be treated and the level of difficulty of the procedures that are offered, ranging from Type 1, the lowest, to Type 3, the highest. Some 75 teams from around the world have requested the classification process while 125 others are considering it. Most of these medical teams are of Type 1 and Type 2 ranking and, so far, no country has yet received a Type 3.

The IDF’s Medical Corps field hospital exceeds the standards and requirements for Type 3. A Type 3 field hospital needs 40 inpatient beds whereas Israel provides 86. A Type 3 ranking has to provide two operating rooms. Israel has four.

Last month, a delegation from the WHO visited Israel to assess the IDF Medical Corps’ field hospital. They met with Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Ofer Merin who, as a civilian, is the head of the trauma center at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center. In the IDF Medical Corps’ field hospital he serves as commander.

Norton was impressed with the IDF team’s performance both in the field and during simulated exercises.

The IDF field hospital has the capabilities of an advanced, permanent hospital, but can be set up almost anywhere in under 12 hours, Merin said.

Ecuador, England, Syria and the Philippines, to mention a few, have received help from Israel following natural emergencies: earthquakes, floods and earthquakes as well as other disasters and traumas of war.

KNI has reported about Israel sending help to Syrian refugees in Greece, flood victims in Britain and closer to home on the Syrian border. It is well documented that IDF Medical Corps teams and Home Front Command have provided rescue and medical services to Turkey in 1999 after an earthquake, to Haiti in 2010 after a hurricane, to the Philippines in 2013 after a typhoon and, even as recently as 2015, to Nepal after an earthquake.

IDF field hospital in Nepal, May 2, 2015 (Photo Credit: IDF Spokesman Unit)
IDF field hospital in Nepal, May 2, 2015 (Photo Credit: IDF Spokesman Unit)

The WHO representative felt confident that Israel would pass the test and be the first in the world to receive the highest ranking because of its vast experience. Israel would also be the only team that has a military component.

Merin, though optimistic, is waiting for the official peer review that will take place in November. Should Israel receive the Type 3 classification it would validate Israel’s position as a world leader in emergency medicine, its qualification to cope with catastrophe and ensure that the Jewish State continues to be among the first in line to respond to future disasters.

“Helping other countries in need is the most effective kind of diplomacy,” said then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in 2015 after Israel sent a team to Nepal. “In crafting a country’s image nothing is more effective than providing aid.”