The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Medical Corps’ emergency field hospital has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best in the world, becoming the first to receive the highest possible ranking under the UN agency’s new classification system for disaster response teams.
“It’s a national honor for the State of Israel and for the Medical Corps,” said Col. (res.) Dr. Ofer Merin, commander of the IDF General Staff’s Surgical Hospital Unit.
The Israeli field hospital received the WHO’s highest possible level 3 classification, designating it as capable of managing “complex inpatient referral surgical care, including intensive care capacity.”
The hospital received some additional “specialized care” recognitions for burn units, dialysis, obstetrics and gynecology, and reconstructive plastic surgery.
“We’re going to recommend the director-general verifies [Israel’s team] as a Type 1, Type 2, and also Type 3 and multiple different types of specialty cells,” announced Dr. Ian Norton on Wednesday.
Norton spearheaded the new classification system, which aims to hold foreign medical teams accountable to a set of minimum standards, as well as to streamline disaster response by enabling recipient countries to declare and receive support according to their needs.
An influx of foreign medical teams to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, for example, was criticized for burdening response efforts with many teams arriving without adequate experience or supplies to sustain their own operations.
“When an objective organization like the UN says that one should learn from us, it’s very moving,” said Merin, who serves in his civilian role as Director of the Trauma Department at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
The WHO designation remains valid for a period of six months to a year, after which the field hospital will be reassessed. A delegation from the UN agency arrived in Israel to inspect the hospital in a process lasting several days.
“After a process lasting many months that ended last week, the team sat with us and announced that the Israeli field hospital was recognized as a level-3 hospital,” Merin said.
“One of them even said, ‘There’s room for the world to learn from the Israeli field hospital,’ ‘The world needs to learn from the Israelis how to engage in disaster areas,'” Merin added proudly.
The Israeli field hospital has been deployed to disaster areas around the world, including Haiti, Nepal, the Philippines, and Japan.
The designation will give Israel “preferential access” to disaster zones, shortlisting them for entry into highly affected countries in need of foreign medical support.
“If we’re in a disaster area, we need level-2 field hospitals, which are hospitals that provide advanced first aid and level-3 hospitals, which are hospitals that are capable of operating and carrying out invasive surgeries,” Merin explained.
“I think that’s a great national pride. A field hospital that extends a hand to help countries of the world—I think that this is a great honor…this is great pride for the IDF and the country,” he concluded.