TORONTO — One day, you go to a hospital and leave your car in the underground parking lot. Then two days later, you return to the parking lot, but instead, your injury will be treated right there, said Suzanne Kaye, national executive director for Canadian Friends of Rambam (CFR).
Actors show how an underground parking garage in Toronto could be turned into an emergency hospital. [Canadian Friends of Rambam photo]
This describes the current project for expanding the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel.
Located close to the northern border of the country, the existing campus has faced rocket attacks in the past, such as during the Second Lebanon War, when the hospital protected its patients by bringing them to the basement.
In anticipation of another similar circumstance, the hospital came up with a plan to build a three-storey underground parking lot that could also be used as an emergency hospital.
Building an underground hospital for use only in wartime is impractically expensive, Kaye told The CJN.
Instead, in wartime, the hospital would replace the cars in the lot with 1,750 beds for their patients, where they can be treated while they are kept safe from chemical, missile and biological warfare, she said, stressing that hospital staff would be able to convert the parking lot quickly.
The underground hospital could even be used to protect people during natural disasters such as earthquakes, Kaye added.
CFR arranged for actors to demonstrate the project to about 170 people from the professional and business community on May 4, bringing in hospital beds, equipment, and patients to the underground parking garage at Greenwin Square, 365 Bloor St. E., in Toronto.
Th concept has “been kind of hard to understand for us here [in Canada],” said Kaye, explaining the reasoning for the demonstration.
It seems natural to park your car in a car park, and you assume it’s always going to be there as a car park, she said. But “no, tomorrow it’s going to be a hospital.”
Guest speaker at the event at Greenwin Square was Michael Halberthal, head of the pediatric cardiac critical care unit and chief of triage at Rambam for mass casualty.
Part of Halberthal’s job entails examining the patients entering the hospital during emergencies to determine who’s to receive immediate treatment and who must wait. Although it’s a difficult job, this ensures that people with serious injuries would receive care first, he told The CJN.
He described the planned underground hospital as completely safe and designed with special floors and ventilation systems to ensure that car fumes won’t linger after conversion, affecting the treatment of the patients.
The builders have dug the hole and will begin adding cement soon, he said, adding that the project is slated for completion in about two years.
In total, developing the underground hospital will cost about $90 million (US), and Halberthal said the hospital is hoping to collect as much as possible through donations.
At the event at Greenwin Square, CFR advertised what they called a “garage sale,” offering all 1,750 bed bays for purchase for $10,000 each, which would then be named for the donor.
There have already been a few purchasers, Kaye said, describing it as a great beginning.
As construction of the hospital/parking lot continues in Haifa, CFR plans to hold more events to share its progress.
As someone with an emotional and family connection to Israel, Kaye called the hospital/parking lot an essential cause, even for people who don’t live in Israel.
Those living in the country call it their home, she said. “But when you live outside of Israel, it becomes your soul.”