Being a first responder with the current worldwide outbreak raging in many countries is not easy. We hear about tragedies from all over the world on a daily basis of people being diagnosed with and many times succumbing to the disease. Thankfully, there have not yet been any fatalities in Israel and 427 confirmed cases throughout the country. The Health Ministry has taken a defensive approach to combat the disease attempting to prevent its spread in Israel. United Hatzalah is doing everything it can to assist in this mission while still maintaining our regular emergency medical service activities and providing a response to any and all medical emergencies in Israel in less than three minutes, and in metropolitan areas in fewer than 90 seconds.
In addition to the confirmed cases, there have been tens of thousands of people confined to home isolation by the Health Ministry due to a chance existing that they have possibly contracted the virus. While this tactic is hopefully effective in preventing any possible spread of the virus, it is also causing a lot of fear and panic among the population as many people don’t know what to do and lack information regarding the virus and its threats.
This panic, and the resources required by the Health Ministry in the form of ambulances needed to conduct home testing on tens of thousands of people who have been confined to home isolation in Israel thus far, have resulted in emergency services being overtaxed and spread extremely thin. Too thin to provide a fast and adequate response to the thousands of medical emergencies that occur on a daily basis in Israel.
United Hatzalah has stepped in to fill that gap and our volunteers have been responding to any and all medical emergencies across the country. The call volume has risen and our dispatch center has doubled the number of dispatchers that provide service to anyone who calls United Hatzalah’s emergency number of 1221. While on a regular day our dispatchers and volunteers respond to some 1,800 medical emergencies since the Coronavirus has hit Israel that number has increased exponentially. The daily call intake last week included 2,000 medical emergencies and thousands of calls from people seeking information. The total call volume more than tripled.
In an effort to protect our volunteers and their families from possibly coming in to contact with the virus, United Hatzalah has purchased thousands of virus protection suits that will be handed out to all of the volunteers across the county in the coming days. These suits are expensive and are one-time-use only. They are sealed and need to be disposed of using special methodology that will prevent any possible contagion from spreading.
Already in Israel, one first responder from Magen David Adom has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, as has a dispatcher who works in the MDA emergency call center. They are just two of the 427 people in Israel who contracted the virus. United Hatzalah is doing everything in its power to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to our volunteers. These suits provide an essential barrier required by our volunteers who are the first line of defense against the disease as they are now being asked to treat patients and stabilize them in the field until an ambulance can arrive.
With the delayed ambulance response that is currently taking place across the country, our volunteers need to stay and care for the patients they treat for longer periods of time, thus increasing the risk of exposure. I cannot stress how vital these virus protection suits are for the safety of our volunteers and their families and we need to but more of them, as each one is single-use-only.
Our volunteers are working non-stop in order to provide the knowledge, treatment, and care to the people of Israel. In the face of so much worry and doubt, knowledge, awareness, caution, and diligence are key to protecting both our volunteers and the public in the face of this looming health crisis. As ever, our volunteers are rising to the challenge and continuing their heroic work because daily medical emergencies don’t stop and neither do our volunteers.