At the only major medical center for the entire Negev, Soroka Medical Center, our Department of Emergency Medicine and Trauma faces unique challenges. Soroka is one of Israel’s largest, most active, and most strategically significant hospitals, serving more than 1 million residents in a region that comprises 60% of the country’s land area.
When opened in its new format in 2001, the ER and Trauma Unit at Soroka was the most expensive and modern such facility in the country. Even then it was extremely busy and crowded. Today, it has become the busiest and most crowded in Israel, with more than 200,000 visits annually, and it is safe to say that few, if any, ERs around the world have a comparable scope of activity.
The heavy patient load reflects the fact that the rate of population increase in the Negev is higher than that of the rest of Israel. In addition to natural population growth, the national project of moving Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bases to the Negev will become operational from the beginning of 2015, bringing thousands of additional soldiers and their families to the region, further challenging our ER and trauma capacity. The most conservative forecasts of natural growth and the movement of IDF military bases to the South project a population increase of 30% in Beer Sheva and the surrounding area by 2020.
The annual rate of increase of ER and Trauma visits surpasses even that of the increase in population. In terms of everyday functioning, the urgent need to expand the ER and Trauma Unit at Soroka is very clear. This need becomes even more pressing in light of the security situation in southern Israel, with the constant threat of repeated rocket attacks on our cities and towns, which most recently, in Operation Protective Edge, presented Soroka with an additional set of significant challenges.
Operation Protective Edge:
Facing New Challenges in the ER
Soroka Medical Center recently found itself once again on the front lines of medical care, in its role as “Israel’s Iron Dome for Health” during the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge. The Negev region, Israel’s southern front, was subjected to heavy barrages of rocket fire from Gaza. The ensuing ground operation resulted in hundreds of our soldiers and many civilians being wounded, many critically.
Over the course of this difficult, stressful, and uncertain two-month period, Soroka’s devoted ER and Trauma staff cared for 1,259 patients, including 775 soldiers and 484 civilians who were wounded or suffered trauma during the military operation. Soldiers sustained internal injuries and wounds to the head, eyes, and limbs. Civilians suffered from shrapnel injuries and emotional trauma. The most severely wounded were brought by evacuation helicopter directly to Soroka Medical Center.
On more than one occasion during the operation, in addition to multiple casualties designated for treatment at Soroka’s ER and Trauma Unit, multiple casualties originally destined for other medical centers landed simultaneously at the Soroka helipad with the decision of the on-board flight surgeon that saving a few additional minutes of flight time — Soroka is the medical center closest to the battlefield — was critical to saving lives. For the first time ever, the ER and Trauma Unit at Soroka did not have sufficient space to meet the magnitude of the immediate challenge.
Now, more than ever, there is a clear need to enlarge the facilities of the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Trauma Unit in order for us to be able to provide our patients with the very best care and to meet all challenges that the future will most certainly bring in our unfortunately unstable part of the world.
Saving Soldiers Wounded in Operation Protective Edge
Whoever saves a life…it is as if he has saved a whole world.
Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 73a
The brave combat soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are our sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers. For us at Soroka, treating those who defend our country is an honor, a privilege, and a duty that we take on with a sense of enormous responsibility and pride. Seven hundred and seventy-five wounded soldiers were brought to Soroka during Operation Protective Edge. All of them arrived at the Emergency Room/Trauma Unit at the first stage of their hospitalization, many in critical condition. Our dedicated staff ensured that they were immediately diagnosed and cared for, in many cases saving their lives, and then transferred them to the appropriate departments within the medical center for continued evaluation, surgery, and treatment. Here are some of their moving stories.
Ohad: On the Way to Rehabilitation
At the height of Operation Protective Edge, after entering the ground battle in Gaza, combat soldier Sergeant Ohad (19) of the elite Egoz unit was brought by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center with critical head injuries. He was treated in the Intensive Care Unit and by a team of doctors in the Department of Neurosurgery. He underwent two urgent and complex surgeries within the space of only a few hours. Ohad was unconscious and on a respirator for a long period of time. He was recently released to a rehabilitation facility for further care. His mother, Erica, expressed her gratitude to the staff at Soroka: "We haven't the words to thank you for saving Ohad's life. Of course, we have a long way to go to recuperate, but I have no doubt that the initial care that Ohad received in the ICU and the surgeries and the support he received at Soroka will stay with him for life."
Rasan Eliyan: A Commander Returns to Battle
Among those critically injured soldiers treated in the Trauma Unit during Operation Protective Edge was Colonel Rasan Eliyan, commander of the Golani Brigade, who was brought to Soroka during the ground offensive. He was transferred to the Ophthalmology Department, where he received treatment, and released and returned to his unit in the field several days later. Following his release, Eliyan called the CEO of Soroka to personally express his gratitude for the devoted and professional care he received.
Yonatan: Exceptional Treatment and a Speedy Recovery
Lt. Col. Yonatan (37), regimental commander of the special Egoz unit, arrived at Soroka’s Trauma Unit hovering precariously between life and death. During a ground battle in Gaza, a piece of shrapnel had penetrated his chest, and his blood pressure was dangerously low. "His blood pressure was 40, [and he was] at the brink of death," says Prof. Gabriel Sandro, head of the Vascular Surgery Department at Soroka. Thanks to a rare form of emergency treatment that he received at Soroka, he was able to recover rapidly and within a short time managed to leave the hospital several times to visit his troops, who were by then stationed just outside the Gaza Strip so that “they would see me alive,” as he put it.
Speaking of his severe injury, Yonatan stated, "It's clear to me that whoever treated me – five or six people, starting from the medics in the field and through to the Trauma Unit at Soroka – made the right decisions, and it's thanks to them that I'm here."
Regarding his medical condition, he added, "They told me that I was given a rare form of treatment and that with any other treatment, I would have been a complete 'vegetable' because of the brain damage. Ten, fifteen more minutes, and that's what would have happened."
Yonatan was injured some five days after the ground offensive into Gaza began. "When he arrived at the Emergency Room, he had already lost a great deal of blood in the field," Prof. Sandro recalled. "We rushed him to the operating\ theater and of the two options – open heart surgery or repair of the torn blood vessel by means of catheterization – we chose the option of catheterization," explained Prof. Sandro, who performed the catheterization together with his colleagues Dr. Victor Ginzburg and Dr. Olga Meizler. "When a patient is in critical condition, there's a dilemma of what is the quickest way to treat him. We chose catheterization and we're happy that we did so," Prof. Sandro reported. Lt. Col. Yonatan was extremely grateful to his physicians: "He sent me a moving text message," said Prof. Sandro.
Omri Michaeli: An Emblem of Patriotism
One of the most iconic pictures of wounded soldiers from Operation Protective Edge, and one that will remain etched in our collective memory, is of Omri Michaeli. A reserve soldier in a special combat unit, Omri was wounded by a bullet that struck his leg. Flown to Soroka by helicopter, he emerged on the helipad and covered himself with an Israeli flag.
Ran Abitbul: Putting a Smile on a New Face
Golani soldier Corporal Ran Abitbul (19) sustained a severe injury to one side of his face on the first day of the ground operation in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. A bullet entered the right side of his face and exited through his throat, severely injuring his eye socket, chin, and ear and damaging nerves. Ran was evacuated to Soroka in critical condition, and rushed to the operating room. The initial operation, led by Dr. Dani Kaplan and Dr. Nevot Givol, took 10 hours.
Ran underwent a series of subsequent surgeries aimed at restoring normal functionality. Using the undamaged side of his face as a "mirror," Soroka’s skilled surgeons reconstructed the damaged side of his face with flexible titanium plates. According to the doctors, Ran will regain optimal functionality of his face within six months. His parents are extremely grateful to Soroka and say that they “are already starting to see positive changes” in their beloved son.
Our recent experiences, including most dramatically Operation Protective Edge, have brought to light new and crucial needs that must be met to assure that we are as prepared as possible for the future:
- The number of treatment bays is not sufficient for current patient needs, and certainly not for the expected growth in the population of the Negev. Adequate space for multiple casualties was lacking during the recent security emergency. Ever-increasing patient loads demand that we expand to open additional treatment bays.
- Six stations are not enough for our Trauma Unit. Operation Protective Edge demonstrated very decisively that we are in urgent need of at least two additional trauma stations.
- The ambulatory emergency area is too small. We need to add treatment stations and seating to this area for the benefit of our patients.
- The triage area, where patients, especially battle and disaster victims, are first diagnosed and treatment allocated according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors, is too small for our actual needs and must be expanded.
The Department of Emergency Medicine and the Trauma Unit are in urgent need of expansion and upgrading of infrastructures that will allow us to be prepared in the best possible way for emergencies of all kinds, to provide our ever-increasing number of patients, civilians and soldiers, with the emergency medical services they need, and to save lives in times of peace and war alike.
- We will expand the total area of the ER by 21,500 square feet.
- The Trauma Unit (currently 3,550 square feet in area) will be expanded by 2,640 square feet for a total of 6,190 square feet, with the number of beds increased from six to eight in the first, most urgent stage.
- Existing sections of the Emergency Medicine Department (shown in white in the above diagram), including ambulatory and non-ambulatory sections and triage, will be reorganized and renovated.
- Family waiting areas, physician’s exam rooms and offices, and treatment bays will be added.
- A new ambulance port will be constructed.
Funding and Naming Opportunities
Below is a list of funding and naming opportunities. Your generous donation will allow us to expand and upgrade Soroka’s Emergency Department and Trauma Unit for the benefit, care, and treatment of our patients throughout the Negev, soldiers and civilians alike, on Israel’s southern front.
Total Project Cost: $22,000,000
New ER Wing
New 21,500 square foot wing for the ER
Naming: $5,000,000 (commitment secured)
- Treatment Bay Clusters of the ER can be named for $1,500,000.
- The Triage Area of the ER can be named for $250,000.
- Each ER Treatment Bay can be named for $50,000.
- Each Family Waiting Area in the ER can be named for $60,000.
- Each Physician Exam Room and Office in the ER can be named for $40,000.
The Trauma Unit, including the new expansion, can be named for $2,000,000.