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The largest underground hospital in the world is in Israel and is already preparing for war

In the first basement of the Haifa Rambam Hospitaldozens of cars await the return of their owners, but on the two lower floors, the cars have disappearedreplaced by more than thousand beds in anticipation of attacks on northern Israel, from Lebanon.

On levels -2 and -3 of this large university hospital, some 40,000 m2 of parking spaces were converted into care and emergency rooms. Large cloth wraps run across the ceiling diffusing the conditioned air to the entire space.

The monitors are connected and the showers, sinks and toilets linked to the water and sewage network. Between the cubicles there are connections for oxygen and for the evacuation of human secretions by healthcare personnel.

In “the largest underground hospital in the world”, All underground infrastructure was designed before the construction of the parking lots, completed in 2014, according to its management.

The entire underground infrastructure of the hospital was completed in 2014. Photo: Thomas Coex/ AFP

Plugs, pipes and installations of all kindswhich normally remain hidden, become accessible almost instantly when a crisis occurs.

More than a thousand new beds

So this week 1,300 beds were installed in the third basement and all the necessary health and medical equipment in just 30 hours.

On Thursday, when AFP visited the site, some 700 additional beds on the upper floor.

Israel, which launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip in response to attacks carried out on Saturday by the Palestinian movement Hamas, is preparing for a possible conflagration on its northern flank, where there have been several incidents in recent days.

At the Rambam hospital they have learned lessons from the Israeli offensive against Lebanon in 2006, which was accompanied by a large number of shots against Haifaa port city about 50 km from the Lebanese border that until then had been out of range of shells from .

On that occasion, about 400 rockets fell around the hospital and hit its parking lot, remembers Philippe Abecassis, a 62-year-old anesthesiologist. All the patients had gone down to the basements where the floor was covered with sand and there were no facilities, commented a nurse.

Doctors at Rambam Hospital in Haifa.  Photo: Thomas Coex / AFPDoctors at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP

The excavation of a parking lot, which had already been decided, was reconsidered “with the idea that if there was another war – and unfortunately in the 75 years of Israel’s existence we know that the wars return– we could use the parking as an underground hospital“Abecassis explained.

“I never thought I would see this in my career, but here we are,” sighs the doctor, for whom this measure is “philosophically very difficult to understand”, because “hospitals “They should be sanctuaries”.

On Wednesday a rocket hit a hospital in Ashkelon, southern Israel, leaving no victims.

“We can’t rely on luck,” said Michael Halberthal, director of the hospital. “We have to offer (patients) a fortified place where they are safe.”

Prepared for a chemical attack

In Rambam hospital, the first basement will be used as decontamination airlock and patient triage area in case of chemical attack.

Four underground operating rooms are planned in addition to the 14 on the upper floors, whose construction was reinforced in case of possible bombings.

Food, fuel, and oxygen were stored in sufficient quantities to make the site self-sufficient for three days, highlights Halberthal, who hopes that peace will prevail and that the underground hospital “will not have to be used.”

Four underground operating rooms are planned in the hospital in addition to the 14 on the upper floors.  Photo: Thomas Coex / AFPFour underground operating rooms are planned in the hospital in addition to the 14 on the upper floors. Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP

The place It was used during the covid-19 crisiswhen staff realized how “difficult it is for patients to be treated in a parking lot, with no separation,” especially auditory, “to isolate them from the screams of other inmates,” Abecassis noted.

“Maybe this place is not the most beautiful but “It’s the safest in the hospital.”says Einat Perez, deputy head of nursing.

On Wednesday, as sirens sounded in the north of the country due to “suspicion of air infiltration”, later ruled out by Israel, a hundred patients were taken down to the basement, to be returned to their rooms a few hours later, according to Dan Kammoun, an Israeli reservist.

“This place is incredible,” says Nurse Perez. “It’s a hospital, not a parking lot.”

With information from Joris Fioriti, AFP

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