As winter continues to bring a surge of patients to already overcrowded emergency rooms around the world, and specifically in Israel, one foundation is helping to facilitate a viable long-term solution to the congestion and strain that is being placed on hospitals. 

The Ted Arison Family Foundation has donated a significant sum towards furthering United Hatzalah’s Hospital Emergency Room Relief Project which has emergency first responders, all of whom are volunteering their time, taking over shifts, and conducting a variety of tasks that free up the emergency room medical teams to focus on treatment rather than patient intake and triage. 

Overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms has been an epidemic throughout Israel for many years now. Having recognized the need for additional staff in emergency rooms to help streamline patients while providing an expert level of care, United Hatzalah launched the Emergency Room Relief project back in 2011. As Israel’s population grows but the number of hospitals in the country stays more or less the same with only one new public hospital being opened in the past 40 years, the strain on hospital emergency rooms is growing and more pressure is being exerted on the medical teams present in those emergency rooms. In response to the increasingly challenging situation which causes long delays that negatively impact patient treatment and outcomes, the Ted Arison Family Foundation saw the value in this project and has given a 3-year grant to maintain and expand the Hospital Emergency Room Relief program so that more fully trained EMTs and paramedics will now have an opportunity to step in and assist, and thereby alleviate more pressure on the ER staff. 

Through the project, volunteers receive additional training focusing on a number of issues including how to properly conduct triage, phlebotomy, patient reception, and more. Volunteers wishing to participate in the project must be certified EMTs or paramedics and must commit to at least one shift per week for a minimum of one year in the emergency room. This comes in addition to their volunteering as active first responders with the organization and responding to a minimum number of medical emergencies just as regular volunteers with the organization do.  

“Volunteer first responders fill the gap and provide a valuable solution to the real stress and congestion that exists in the emergency rooms,” said Chani Levanon, who heads the ER project for United Hatzalah. “They take over a variety of tasks, including monitoring vital signs and electronic devices, taking blood samples, and setting up intravenous infusions. The project currently has over 600 volunteers participating in 25 emergency rooms throughout Israel. These volunteers contribute more than 4,000 hours in approximately 420 shifts per month. This all results in shorter waiting times and an expedited process for the patients while lowering the stress and tension for the hospital staff.” 

So why would volunteer first responders, who already have a lot of extra stress of their own wish to volunteer for such a project? Levanon believes it is because the volunteers themselves know that by participating in the project, they will not only become better first responders but also learn a lot about the other side of the equation of what happens to the patient after the first responders bring them to the hospital.  

“Volunteers gain extensive experience that enriches their lifesaving skills, knowledge of emergency medical best practices, and understanding of ER procedures, thereby becoming better EMTs,” Levanon stated. “They are giving something of their own, their time, but they are getting something valuable in return, knowledge.” Levanon concluded by saying that “Hospital ER medical directors have welcomed this exceptional initiative. They thank us for reducing the staff’s workload and praise the EMTs for their spirit of volunteerism and professionalism, which helps raise the spirits of the patients who are going through the tough experience of coming to the hospital after having a medical emergency or complication, and that sometimes can make all the difference for a patient. In this program, everyone wins.”

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