Immediately following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the IDF (Zahal) sent a team of 122 medical workers, 45 physicians, and 95 tons of equipment to set up a field hospital to provide high quality medical relief. The 60-bed field hospital treated nearly 1,600 patients, performed 85 surgeries, and delivered 8 babies over the duration of the aid mission.
The IDF (Zahal) has set up similar humanitarian missions to both Haiti and the Philippines.
Managing the Chaos After The Worst Mass Casualty Disasters
During these humanitarian crises, independent medical teams from around the world came to provide what care they could. The result was chaotic. Inexperienced and unequipped delegations were treating thousands of patients.
To better coordinate care and to ensure that field hospitals are properly equipped and trained the World Health Organization has started a process that permits only certain field hospitals to provide medical treatment during humanitarian crises.
The World Health Organization has taken notice of the IDF (Zahal)’s commitment to providing high quality medical relief in disaster-struck areas. Our hospital, along with nine others, has been selected for this designation (final approval is pending).
As part of the approval process, the International Health Organization sent a team of observers to a recent IDF (Zahal) Field Hospital training exercise. The exercise placed a major focus on the logistical aspects of building and operating a field hospital with little warning and under immense stress.
When Saving Lives – Every Detail Matters
The field hospital is a massive logistical and medical undertaking. The hospital can treat more than 200 patients per day and has 12 emergency medicine stations, 3 operating facilities, a blood bank, advanced laboratories, and imaging equipment. Its capacity is equivalent to a traditional hospital.
“We have to have to be completely independent in terms of logistics,” explained Col. Dr. Ofer Merin, Commander of the IDF (Zahal) Field Hospital (and head of the trauma unit at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center). “We need to manage our own food and electricity (solar) supplies. We also need to be able to fix our own equipment. If something goes wrong during an humanitarian aid mission, we can’t rely on anyone else to help. We can’t expect to find resources at the scene – we simply need to find a way to manage.”
The field hospital staff also places focus on the speed at which the field hospital can be available. Disasters can’t be predicted. The field hospital staff needs to send an advance team to scout the area and determine the immediate needs in the affected area.
Once the full team arrives, half of the members start constructing the hospital while the others treating the victims. From start to end, the field hospital construction takes only 12 hours to complete. Speed is key to saving lives.
After every humanitarian mission or training exercise, the team evaluates their work in order to improve for future endeavours.
“The IDF (Zahal) Field Hospital is a military and national treasure,” Col. Dr. Ofer Merin said. “We’ll continue adding more staff and more capabilities to ensure our ability to provide the best, most inclusive medical care possible.”