Jerusalem – They have been on the forefront of disaster aid following numerous catastrophic events, but Israel’s military field hospital is poised to take the global spotlight once again as the first foreign medical team to potentially earn the World Health Organization’s highest ranking.
The Israeli foreign medical team is among six currently being considered by the WHO for various ratings, reported The Times of Israel.
Teams from China, Japan and Russia have already been reviewed by the organization, the public health arm of the United Nations, with Israel and Australia being evaluated simultaneously. While an additional 75 teams have also requested WHO reviews, only Israel, China and a pan-European collaboration are being considered for the Type 3 classification, the highest ranking awarded by the organization.
Israel has played a key role in humanitarian relief efforts worldwide, with teams from the IDF Medical Corps and Home Front Command among the first and largest to respond to devastating earthquakes in Turkey, Haiti and Nepal as well as a 2013 typhoon that killed over 10,000 in the Philippines.
Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Ofer Merin, commander of the IDF field hospital, has led several of Israel’s disaster relief delegations. Director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s trauma center in his civilian life, Merin describes the field hospital as a “national treasure.”
“I’ve seen dozens of field hospitals from various countries,” said Merin. “There is something unique in our abilities, to get there fast and be independent. And in our worldview, that is essential.”
The prestige of being the first team to be awarded the Type 3 designation would firmly establish Israel as a global leader in emergency medicine while also giving the IDF team the ability to serve as first responders in future disasters.
The WHO classification system for foreign medical response teams was first created in 2013, with each category offering increasingly higher levels of care. To earn Type 3 status, a field hospital would need to provide a wide variety of services and have 40 inpatient beds and two operating rooms. The Israeli field hospital currently has 86 beds and four operating rooms.
Dr. Ian Norton, head of the WHO’s Foreign Medical Teams unit, was part of a delegation that visited Israel in September to tour the IDF Medical Field Corps’ field hospital. The 26 tent complex can be assembled in less than 12 hours and can take the place of an advanced brick and mortar medical center.
Norton visited six of the field hospital’s tents during a training exercise with his team and categorized the facility as “impressive.” Norton said that said that while no final decisions have been made yet, the IDF team’s broad experience in international disaster relief efforts give him reason for optimism about Israel’s chances of garnering the coveted rating.
“I am very confident that Israel will do a good job and get through the process,” said Norton.
A final decision will not be made until November 8th or 9th.
“Hopefully, you’ll see then Israel being able to declare itself a ‘quality assured’ or ‘classified’ team and wear a ‘classified’ badge on their shoulder,” said Norton.