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Israeli Hospital Converts Bomb Shelter Parking Lot into State-of-the-Art Coronavirus Ward

New Underground COVID-19 Ward at Rambam Health Care Campus
New Underground COVID-19 Ward at Rambam Health Care Campus

Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus is converting its underground bomb shelter parking lot into a state-of-the-art coronavirus hospital ward, with beds slotted into parking spaces.

"This is a facility that was the outcome of the second Lebanon War in 2006 when we were under attack, with missiles attacked and none of the hospitals at that time were protected, none were fortified so at the end of the war we decided that we must fulfill our mandate to give medical treatment under all scenarios,” said Dr. Michael Halberthal, Director-General of Rambam Health Care Campus.

At the end of the war, in which much of northern Israel came under Hezbollah missile attack, the hospital built three floors of underground parking – each one five acres – that can be transformed in case of emergency to the biggest underground hospital in the world.

“We can give solution for 2,000 patients but now, this facility is made for the COVID-19 patients and we were asked by the Ministry of Health to give solution for 770 patients, a 170 of them are ventilated,” Halberthal said.

The Health Ministry ordered hospitals to open additional coronavirus wards as coronavirus cases continued to climb. By Wednesday they had reached nearly 7,000 new cases a day.

Israeli media reported that some hospitals were turning away coronavirus patients but Health Ministry director, Hezi Levi, said those patients were being re-routed to other hospitals and all patients were receiving care.

But Halberthal said opening the emergency facility will partially solve the problem but will create another.

“Once we open this facility or treat more COVID-19 patients we will have to compromise -- first on the quality of care and then compromise on the extent of treatment we are able to give to non-COVID patients in the hospital,” he said.

“We have the facility, so we have the ground, we have the equipment, but there's no doubt that the bottom (line) is the amount of staff that we have to treat these patients," he added.

With a population of some nine million people, Israel now has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of coronavirus and some officials warn hospitals are quickly approaching capacity, though others say that is not case.

Israel's defense minister, Benny Gantz, has instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare to open a 200-bed field hospital.

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