Sheba Medical Center Director Zeev Rotstein warned on Tuesday that plans to construct a fortified delivery room at the hospital may be called off, due to the decision to allot NIS 135 million ($36.5 million) to the relocation of the Barzilai Medical Center emergency room in Ashkelon after ancient graves were found at the site.
Deputy Health Minister MK Yakov Litzman's decision to build a fortified emergency room at the Ashkelon hospital without moving the graves has lead to a delay in the Finance Ministry's budgeting of fortification plans in hospitals across the country.
The Sheba director warned that the hospital cannot fortify its underground parking lot, which is currently under construction, and meant to serve as a fortified delivery room in emergencies.
In a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Professor Rotstein warned that if the necessary adjustments for fortification are not made now, they will not be able to be added in the future. The construction of the parking lot is being funded by donations, but Rotstein says its fortification was approved by the Health Ministry from the budget for fortifying hospitals.
"We recently learned that the funds that were meant for this purpose have been put towards relocating the emergency room at the Barzilai Medical Center," Rotstein wrote.
Doctors protest near grave site in Ashkelon
"We are missing out on a historical opportunity to allow the population of Gush Dan (the Tel Aviv metropolitan area) to give birth in a fortified hospital during an emergency," he wrote to the defense minister. "If, heaven forbid, a war breaks out in the region, Gush Dan is expected to be in the line of fire. The largest hospital in the State of Israel cannot ensure the safety of the women giving birth in its wards. There is no doubt that this is an urgent and vital need."
A large portion of the buildings at Sheba Medical Center were built in the 1970s and are not properly fortified. Hospital sources say the construction of a parking lot in the maternity building and another parking lot at the rehabilitation center would be an opportunity to fortify the hospital in the event of an emergency.
A hospital spokesperson said: "Our comments have been passed on to the holders of central posts in the State of Israel. Since a final decision has yet to be made, we are forced to act in a formal framework."
Deputy Health Minister Litzman's plan to fortify Barzilai was approved by the government last month, but it was agreed that it should be reexamined. Meanwhile, following the public protest to the plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a professional committee headed by his office's Director-General Eyal Gabai, to examine the matter "in a way that would prevent the endangerment of human life", and is slated to submit its conclusions in the near future.