Israeli Ministry Intervenes to End Rift Between Rescue Groups

Magen David Adom agrees to send out first responders from United Hatzalah, while latter agrees to refer callers to national emergency hotline

Magen David Adom responds to a traffic accident.
Tomer Neuberg

The Health Ministry published a memo by its director general, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, meant to end a dispute between Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah of Israel, and to regulate the working relationship between the two rescue groups.

According to the new regulation, agreed upon by the two organizations, first responders from United Hatzalah will be part of a national hotline that MDA will operate and not belong to a separate hotline.

Accordingly, United Hatzalah first responders will be called upon through the MDA hotline, which will locate the rescue workers nearest to any incident, regardless of their organizational affiliation. MDA will have to develop a joint app to serve as a hotline combining information from both groups, and both groups will have to adapt accordingly.

United Hatzalah agreed to stop publicizing its hotline number in order to make the process more efficient and direct all calls through the national hotline. When it does receive calls, it will pass on the details to MDA, while at the same time it will locate United Hatzalah first responders.

Health Ministry officials hope the new arrangement will end the bitter dispute between the two organizations, which had grown worse recently. In its wake, confrontations erupted in several medical emergency situations in which MDA and United Hatzalah volunteers both arrived. In some of the instances, they even ended in the prevention of a patient being evacuated or in interference with providing aid to patients in distress.

The CEO of United Hatzalah, Moshe Teitelbaum, commented: “The Health Ministry today gave a clear expression of the need and obligation of the MDA hotline to share information about emergency calls it receives with the United Hatzalah hotline, a demand we stood by for many years. Likewise, the Health Ministry clearly concluded that sharing the information with our organization will benefit Israeli citizens. In the coming months, the agreement and collaboration will be tested, and we hope that the cooperation will go well and help save lives.”

MDA commented: “We thank the health minister, Rabbi [Yaakov] Litzman, the ministry’s director general and its staff for putting first responder activity under the MDA hotline. MDA works in full cooperation with everyone and welcome to our services anyone whose goal is to save life, including United Hatzalah volunteers.”