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World’s Largest Underground Hospital Prepares For Possible Battle With Hezbollah (PHOTOS)

World’s Largest Underground Hospital Prepares For Possible Battle With Hezbollah (PHOTOS)

A vision of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, northern Israel, with more than 2,000 beds on 60,000 square meters, ready to care for the sick and wounded during the war with Hezbollah. EFE/ Sarah Gomez Armas

In just eight hours, it can be transformed into the world’s largest underground and fortified hospital: the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, northern Israel, with 2,000 beds on 60,000 square meters, ready to treat the sick and injured. War with Hezbollah is an increasingly imminent possibility.

“To explain why we are in the world’s largest underground hospital, we have to go back to 2006, to the Second Lebanon War, when Haifa was hit hard by missiles for the first time, and we didn’t have the Iron Dome anti-aircraft system,” Rambam Hospital Director Michael Halberthal told EFE.

The doctor still remembers about 70 missiles falling around the hospital, shaking the walls of the building and trying to continue treating patients. “But no one is safe.”

Lessons learned in 2006 have been used to design emergency protocol for many situations, including chemical or biological warfare, although the most frequently rehearsed in drills are missile and rocket attacks. In October, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah resumed hostilities in Gaza in “solidarity” with Palestinian militants.

Although sirens sound frequently in Haifa, Israel’s third city has not suffered any major blows since then, but they are preparing for the worst. When that time comes, all of the hospital’s floors and specialties will be moved underground, on three floors that would normally be considered parking.

Minus 2 and Minus 3 floors are for patient accommodation, including intensive care patients and operating rooms; At least ambulances will be on site and emergencies will be assessed, the director explains.

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The Rambam administration has a contingency plan designed since 2012 that allows its services to move underground within 72 hours: removing vehicles from the parking lot, cleaning and disinfecting, reducing beds and medical equipment, operating operating rooms, installing showers and toilets, ventilation. And to enable air purification services…

But after the experience of the Hamas attack on October 7, when hospitals in southern Israel were overwhelmed within hours, when Hezbollah launched the first rockets, it was decided to carry out all these tasks, and in an emergency, it was only necessary to transfer patients and get the wounded underground.

A vision of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, northern Israel, with more than 2,000 beds on 60,000 square meters, ready to care for the sick and wounded during the war with Hezbollah. EFE/ Sarah Gomez Armas

Ready in 8 hours

“If war breaks out in the north and we have to start over, it would take us about 72 hours, but now we can make the underground hospital fully operational in just 8 hours,” said Dr. Halberthal.

This underground hospital can accommodate a total of 8,000 patients and injured, as not all of them need beds, making it an alternative not only to patients in the regular Rambam, but to the two other hospitals in the area.

β€œIn times of emergency, we can be self-sufficient for up to four days without any outside help. “We have enough electricity, water, food, medicine, ventilation and air purification…” he points out.

There is a command room on the 3rd floor, where the hospital administration, along with representatives of the military, police and emergency services, monitor the situation in real time 24 hours a day and take joint decisions.

In the room: a dozen screens with all access controlled to see how many wounded people are arriving – including the heliport, data on the hospital’s capacity and even a “red phone” to communicate directly with the authorities.

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This underground hospital has already been tested during the Covid-19 pandemic, although the space was used to house large numbers of quarantined patients rather than as a safe place. “I hope nothing else happens in the north, but if it does, we are ready for any situation,” Halberthal stressed.

Hostilities have only grown since October along the border between Israel and Lebanon β€” where more than 500 people have died, most on the Lebanese side and in the ranks of Hezbollah β€” and when it reached its peak last month, war seemed all but inevitable. The international community, particularly the United States and France, is working to promote a diplomatic solution. EFE

A vision of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, northern Israel, with more than 2,000 beds on 60,000 square meters, ready to care for the sick and wounded during the war with Hezbollah. EFE/ Sarah Gomez Armas

Michael Halberthal, general director of the Rambam Medical Center, poses this Thursday in the command room of the 60,000-square-meter, underground and fortified hospital in northern Israel with more than 2,000 beds. War with Hezbollah is an increasingly imminent possibility. EFE/ Sarah Gomez Armas