Is the health system preparing itself for the possibility of another war? Hospitals in the north of Israel, which barely handled the pressure during the Second Lebanon War, have drawn out plans for building fortified departments, but apparently nobody is in a hurry to implement them.
Ynet found out, for example, that the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa needed NIS 160 million (about $40 million) to complete the work, but the government has instructed the hospital to find donors to finance it. Other northern hospitals are not in better shape.
"If another war breaks out, we will not be able to be accountable for soldiers and citizens who will be injured at the home front," warned sources at Rambam, the largest hospital in the North.
During the war last summer, many wounded soldiers were evacuated to Rambam from Lebanon and the operating theaters worked overtime, but unfortunately they were impelled to constantly improvise.
The top floors of the hospital and all rooms facing north (where the Katyushas were shot from) were evacuated; windows were covered in tape to prevent shrapnel, vital facilities were covered in sand bags and patients were transferred to makeshift departments in the lower floors and the basement.
The hospital prepared detailed plans, including fortification of the emergency room and the intensive care department, both of which now have a tin roof, building three underground floors that could be used routinely for parking and in an emergency would be used as an alternate 500-bed hospital.
Now, despite promises and plan approvals, nothing has changed and according to the hospital, it has not seen a dime from the government.
The Treasury's response to the claims was that the government's resolution to fortify the North was followed by an agreement between the Treasury and the Health Ministry, according to which the Health Ministry would allocate NIS 52 million ($13 Million) to cover the deficits and loss of income during the war, and during the 2008 budget negotiations the two ministries would discuss development and fortification of the hospitals.
The Health ministry's response was that after the war, the government had resolved to fortify confrontation line hospitals for NIS 480 million ($118 million). The ministry had recruited two thirds of the sum, while the government pledged to provide the last third. The Health Minister slammed the Treasury for not transferring the money, saying it was jeopardizing the donations.
The Haemek Medical Center in Afula is now building a new fortified building, instead of a new ward that was planned. The new building is estimated to cost $40 million.
Ahiya Raved, Hagai Einav and Moran Rada contributed to the report