Israel field hospital receives top UN recognition

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

Israel’s has solidified its position as a world leader in emergency medicine after the IDF field hospital received the United Nation’s World Health Organization’s highest award this week following an initial evaluation as reported by Kehila News Israel in October.

Israel’s qualification is not just theoretical but has been proven providing emergency medical care in recent ‘sudden-onset disasters’ (SOD) including earthquakes in Turkey in 1999, Haiti in 2010, Nepal in 2015, a typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 and currently to the wounded on the Syrian border.

SODs are classified by the WHO as those which “occur with little or no warning and often cause excessive injuries far surpassing the national response capacities. These challenges can arise in both developing and developed countries. The demand for rapid trauma care is particularly critical in the aftermath of earthquakes.”

The UN classification system was set up in 2013 to create order in emergency situations, ensuring that the right help is available when and where it is most needed and that inappropriate or even burdensome help is kept away.

The classification is in three categories according to the nature and capacity of medical care provision. Israel is the first and only country so far to receive level 3 classification and has even exceeded the requirements of that award. The award is for provision that offers, “Complex inpatient referral surgical care including intensive care capacity.”

In practice that means that the IDF can set up a hospital comprising up to 30 tents in less than 12 hours and provide specialist care in cases such as those requiring plastic surgery, gynecology and dialysis, treating 15 major or 30 minor cases in a day.

Dr. Ian Norton who heads up the UN award team highlighted the scale of Israel’s provision as “probably two to three times the size of any other team that we have currently.”

There is also an ethical dimension to the award, governing such matters as non-discriminatory care provision.

The level 3 classification allows the IDF to continue to be first on scene in SOD situations.

Lt. Dr. Ofer Merin, who commands the IDF Medical Corps’ field hospital and also heads up the trauma unit at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, is the chief architect of the team which spent a year preparing the submission to the UN and will receive the award in Hong Kong later this month.

“We gained a lot from this process, which means our future patients will gain a lot,” he said.

The IDF field hospital personnel (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)
The IDF field hospital personnel (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

The WHO’s attitude to Israel over the award is in marked contrast to the UN Security Council and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which have recently been heavily criticized for repeated discriminatory and anti-Semitic behavior, as reported by Kehila News Israel.

Even the achievement itself has been cynically labelled as self-serving by some commentators, despite the poverty of many of the recipients of medical aid and their inability to reciprocate.

Indeed the award has been achieved through lessons learned from Israel’s response to decades of pressure and painful conflict. The lessons are now not only benefitting Israel itself, but are serving the most needy and vulnerable in the world at a time when they most need help. As the prophet put it in Isaiah 58:6-9:

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”