Ashdod now has its own hospital. If, for many, this information does not seem to be of great importance, it is nonetheless an absolute revolution for the 500,000 residents of the greater Ashdod area. In fact, Ashdod was the only one of Israels large municipalities without a hospital. So, what does it mean for an Israeli – especially from the south – to live without a hospital? During 2014s Operation Protective Edge, Israels fifth largest city was targeted more than 250 times by rockets launched from Gaza, injuring dozens. Ashdod families suffered through the war with nowhere to go for immediate care when injured by shrapnel or experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Even in normal times, they were forced to travel for more than an hour to get treatment or deliver a baby.
Today, a nine-floor inpatient hospital building and a seven-floor outpatient clinic, connected by a four-story, beautiful light-filled entrance lobby, offer the most advanced technologies for every patient. Assuta Ashdod brings revolutionary healthcare to the State of Israel, declares Prof. Joshua Shemer, chairman of Assuta Medical Centers. This public hospital will literally change the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients who were medically stranded in the Negev – a challenging region largely inhabited by people of a working class, immigrant background. According to Prof. Shemer, building this hospital was nothing less than a modern Zionist project.
In the brand-new Community Cancer Center, patients are able to undergo extremely precise high-dose radiotherapy treatment that can replace surgical procedures. The state-of-the-art Community Heart Centers catheterization unit helps reduce heart attacks by 50 percent and saves innumerable lives with the seamless integration of speed, technology and medical skills, while the IVF unit allows many to realize their dream of starting a family. Assuta Ashdod is built for, and works for, the community, says Prof. Shemer. The public hospital is slated to work with every Israeli HMO, allowing all patients to receive the best medical attention.
Inspired by high-tech
Assuta Ashdod is the first public hospital to be built in Israel in 40 years. The first of its kind in the medical high-tech era, the hospital recruited 250 of the countrys top physicians and a team of 500 nurses to make it work. The whole complex is equipped with advanced systems, including digitalized medical files with information about patients, and systems that monitor the treatment procedures and queues in order to create a uniform flow of information that will prevent the patient from experiencing harassment and unpleasant bureaucracy.
We created the concept of integrated care, a digital connection between the hospital, its physicians and every other authorized medical personnel outside of the hospital through HMO files, explains Prof. Shemer. This revolutionary system allows for a doctor to access all of a patients medical history as well as facilitating the at-home follow-up and any post-hospitalization care. It was a great challenge that Maccabi Healthcare Services accepted, since it is unprecedented, but it is truly groundbreaking. Assuta Ashdods Oncology Department, for instance, will be the only one in the south of Israel to be fully integrated with other departments. This will prevent a great amount of distress to cancer patients; this is our vision for the community, he elaborates.
But the most impressive technologies at Assuta Ashdod are the advanced medical equipment, such as linear accelerators for radiotherapy, an advanced catheterization laboratory and new CT and MRI devices. In addition, the hospital itself has invested almost NIS 12 million to meet green standards: when building the hospital, special attention was paid to being environmentally friendly. As a result, in addition to the green building standards for design, construction materials, and heating and cooling systems, a lush healing garden offers patients and their visitors the perfect oasis for a break.
Wellness is a key word
The Emergency Department is another example of creative methods that are new to Israel, used to improve the patient flows in the hospital. Unlike other Emergency Departments, where there is always a shortage of beds and patients are often cared for in corridors, the Assuta Ashdod ER is not divided into surgical, internal medicine and orthopedic departments, stresses Prof. Shemer. Rather, all patients are seen in the same treatment areas and cared for by the same staff, divided according to urgency alone. This hospital was built on the foundation of altruism with an atmosphere in which the entire staff brings compassion and empathy to all patients and their families. We emphasize the importance of communication – not only with the patient, but among the employees too, he adds.
Moreover, beds in the ER are separated by walls instead of curtains to maximize privacy and help deter the spread of infection. Every department has its own spacious waiting room and one-third of the Hospitals rooms are private while the other two-thirds allow only for double occupancy. None of the departments are, in fact, overcrowded. Assuta Ashdod has 300 beds and is expected to care for up to 80,000 patients annually, while the Emergency Department plans to treat about 250 patient visits a day.
Assuta Ashdod is a university hospital, associated with the Medical School of Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Since day one, the hospital welcomes students seeking medical internship or medical residency programs in all departments. Moreover, the hospital is planning on developing research centers in every department, from basic molecular biology to clinical trials, affirms Prof. Shemer.
Assuta Ashdod is the first fully rocket-proof Israeli hospital, built with a unique bomb-shelter designed to withstand missile attacks. It is also chemical and biological weapons-proof. In the event of another war or other major attack, nurses and physicians could continue to work everywhere in the hospital without evacuating a single patient, including the Emergency Department, the operating rooms and all of the wards.
Assuta – owned by Maccabi Healthcare Services, the second largest non-profit HMO in Israel – won the tender to build the university hospital. The project cost more than $275 million (NIS 1 billion) to construct. Assuta Medical Centers invested over NIS 300 million and the government provided a NIS 900 million grant.
The hospital is not only filling the void in a medical desert, it is also infusing 1,200 new jobs into the city and its region, asserts Prof. Shemer. Until now, the hospital has also raised $10 million from private donors. A good start since, like other public hospitals in Israel, Assuta Ashdod depends on peoples generosity in order to give the best medical care and services to the residents of the south.
Though construction of the new hospital is complete, Assuta Ashdod is opening its departments gradually to monitor and ensure success. Outpatient departments started taking patients in June and operating rooms in August. In September, the childrens and cardiology departments began work. This month, the maternity ward will begin delivering babies, and with the opening of the emergency room, in November, the hospital will be fully operational.
Professor Joshua Shemer, MD
Prof. Joshua Shemer is Chairman of Assuta Medical Centers, Israels largest private hospital network, and Chairman of the new advanced public hospital Assuta Ashdod University Hospital.
A graduate of Hebrew Universitys Hadassah School of Medicine, Prof. Shemer is a foremost specialist in medical technology management and served in that capacity as a faculty member at the Tel Aviv University Business School, as well as Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine at Tel Aviv University Medical School. Prof. Shemer is an alumnus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.
Over the years, Prof. Shemer has served as Surgeon General of the Israel Defense Forces, Director General of Israels Ministry of Health, and CEO of the Maccabi HMO. He has led a number of national reform committees and has been an active participant in over a hundred scientific conferences in Israel and abroad. A prolific writer and editor, he has published extensively in prominent professional publications, authored numerous chapters and six books on trauma, terror, health reform and technology assessment.
For more information: www.assutaashdod.co.il