At the beginning of January, United Hatzalah opened its second new chapter in Judea and Samaria in as many weeks. The newest chapter known as Western Binyamin, covers the area of the south-west part of Samaria and includes the towns of Beit Horon, Hashmonaim, Nili, Na’aleh, Dolev, Talmon, Harasha, Neriyah, Neve Tzuf, Nahliel, Ateret and all of the area and roadways in between. Geographically it is moderately sized and contains a team of some 60 volunteers including volunteer paramedics and doctors from all sectors of religious observance.
“We have a strong modern orthodox element but people from across the religious spectrum find a home here to volunteer if they choose to do so,” said Chapter Head Ariel Attias.
We wanted to provide a closer and more personal connection to the volunteers in the area and provide quicker care for the patients who need our services. With that in mind, we opened this new chapter in order to provide better and more personal care to the patients and answer the needs of the volunteers as well. It is my dream that we will increase the number of volunteers that are present in the region and will be able to reach a 90 second response time to any emergency in the area,” Attias added.
Attias spoke about some of the challenges that face the new chapter and some of the more interesting characteristics of the location. “We have some very particular situations that develop for our responders. One of the foremost is that Palestinians often arrive at the Nalin checkpoint and request medical assistance from our volunteers because they know that we arrive quickly and provide high-level care. So we go and treat them until an ambulance can come and take them to the hospital. Another hotspot for Palestinians to come and ask for our assistance is the front gate of the town of Halamish/Neve Tzuf. This is the same Halamish that saw a Palestinian terrorist slaughter a family this past summer, for which our volunteers, who were neighbors of the victims of the terror attack, were the first to arrive.”
In addition to the population variance, the area boasts a fair amount of geographic challenges in the forms of the heavily forested area of Ben Shemen, as well as the many valleys that pock-mark the region. To answer the needs of the rough terrain Attias says that the chapter sorely needs a specialized ATV, which they have requested from the organization and are currently attempting to raise funds for.
“My dream is to have enough volunteers and equipment to be able to provide a response in less than 90 seconds to all those who need medical attention. To that end, we are opening a new EMT training course next month and everyone is invited to sign up. We will also be building an equipment distribution point near the town of Hashmonaim, which is also set to open in the next month or two,” Attias added.
“In order to get to the response time that we need we need to have enough volunteers in each town to be able to cover their area. In some towns, we already have enough but in others, we are sorely in need of additional volunteers, that is something that we are hoping to fix by holding the new course.”
Another EMS challenge faced by the volunteers is the extremely long wait time for ambulances, and the even longer ambulance rides to the hospitals. “Some of the towns are very distant from hospitals and ambulances take a long time to arrive,” Attias said. “These aren’t regular ambulance transports here, like they have in a city. Some of these towns are 40 minutes away from the nearest hospital at high-speed travel. So the first responders really are the front line of the emergency medical services until the ambulance arrives and they make all the difference between life and death.”
Attias concluded by talking about the help that the new chapter will offer the communities it serves. “Our volunteers who live in these towns know their neighbors and the area in which they live. They give their neighbors a sense of comfort and assurance, knowing that there are EMS responders nearby. Their response time is fast, their care is professional and the assistance that they give is vital. All of us in the new chapter are proud and excited to provide the help that will be required of us and assist those in need of medical attention in our communities.”
President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer said: “We made a commitment to the people of Israel to increase our presence and lower response times in Judea and Samaria at the end of 2017. Since that time, we have brought in dozens of new volunteers into the area and opened two new chapters to assist residents in these areas. We look to continue to increase the number of volunteers, chapters, vehicles and equipment that we have in these areas where there is a great distance between residents and hospitals requiring a fast pre-ambulatory medical response.”