Boomb-proof Haifa hospital a world first

By Nathan Jeffay, June 14, 2012
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The underground hospital under construction

The underground hospital under construction

Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa unveiled the world’s largest underground hospital this week.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, government officials and local dignitaries caught a first glimpse of the 2,000-bed facility that can seal itself off from the rest of the world for 72 hours.

In the case of a chemical or biological attack, it would use only its own supply of filtered air, safe water and uncontaminated food and medical supplies.

The hospital was built in a five-acre pit, which is 60ft deep and in large part underneath the sea, meaning that it is protected from conventional attacks, such as the barrage of terrorist rockets experienced during the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

“In the past we’ve had a full month of rocket attacks on this hospital and neighbourhood,” said Rafael Beyar, Rambam’s Chief Executive Officer and Director General. “You have to accept civilian casualties, soldiers from the border, as well as normal patients, meaning that there is no way you can close. This is what led us to build the facility.”

In peace time, the underground facility will be a car park for 1,400 vehicles. Then, in emergency situations, it will be set up with medical equipment, and beds will be put in position. Patients who are already in the above-ground hospital will simply move down, or if they cannot walk be wheeled down in their beds.

Dr Beyar said that the cleaning process is not as much of a challenge as it may seem because “there is less bacteria in a parking lot than in a normal hospital”.

The underground facility cost £65 million to build, which came from government funds and private contributions.

The largest donor was shipping tycoon Sammy Ofer, who donated a quarter of the cost a year before he died last June. It will be named the Sammy Ofer Underground Fortified Hospital in his honour, and become operational in October.

Last updated: 12:51pm, June 14 2012