Following the lawsuit issued by Magen David Adom against United Hatzalah, United Hatzalah, the smaller volunteer and free emergency medical service organization, issued a letter of defense to the court responding to accusations of slander from Magen David Adom.

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(Credit: Shira Hershkop)Magen 

In the letter of defense submitted to the District Court of Tel Aviv, United Hatzalah gave numerous examples that are representative of the trend in which Magen David Adom withheld addresses and other pertinent medical information in order to prevent United Hatzalah first responders from reaching patients in need of emergency medical care. One of these instances resulted in the death of a woman. In another instance, an older man suffering from severe shortness of breath and residing in a hostel continued to suffer while a volunteer from United Hatzalah with oxygen and full medical gear was on the street but was not given the address of where to find the person in need. An additional case saw Magen David Adom refuse to give the address of a woman in active labor, to a  volunteer EMT nearby. United Hatzalah told the court that over the past number of years, Magen David Adom has continuously refused to give over vital information regarding the whereabouts of these medical cases and more and that the refusal to do so is endangering lives.

The letter of defense states that Magen David Adom has continuously and purposefully refused to give over this information even when the volunteers from United Hatzalah were very close to the incidents taking place and able to provide medical intervention to those in need. The cases included in the letter of defense were all incidents that took place within the last two years.

In 2018 in Be’er Sheva, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Ariel Fahima received an alert regarding a medical incident on Chaviva Reik St. while he himself was located on the same street. Fahima, following protocol, called the dispatch center of Magen David Adom in order to receive the exact address of the incident in order to arrive at the location as fast as possible and provide medical care. Much to his dismay and surprise, the dispatcher for Magen David Adom and her supervisor said that they were unable to pass on the information regarding the incident because he was still not connected to the application that was issued by the Health Ministry. Fahima pleaded with the dispatchers stating that he was on the street where the incident was taking place, but his pleas went unheeded. The MDA dispatchers hung up the phone. It is the claim of United Hatzalah that the dispatchers acted against the agreed protocols set forth by the Health Ministry who have instructed MDA and their dispatch to give over all of the pertinent information regarding an emergency, including via telephone, until all of the volunteers from both organizations were added to the Health Ministry’s application.

In a separate incident from 2017 on Bialik St. in Ashdod, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Daniel Bokovza received an emergency alert regarding a woman who was suffering from severe shortness of breath and required immediate medical intervention. Bokovza arrived quickly at Bialik street. However, when he called MDA’s dispatch in order to ascertain the exact address of the medical emergency, the MDA dispatchers said that there was no such incident on Bialik St. in the city. Later that day, Bokovza discovered in an indirect fashion, that the woman who he had rushed out to treat had later died because she didn’t receive emergency medical assistance in time. The family members of the woman claim that they waited for more than 25 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

In a third incident detailed in the letter of defense, United Hatzalah volunteer Shalom Zohar form Kfar Saba received an alert regarding an elderly man who suffered from shortness of breath in the hostel on Derech Kedumim Street where he was staying. When Zohar arrived at the location, it was evident that the complex was large and had many floors and rooms. There was no one at the hostel who could give Zohar a location of where the man was staying. Zohar called MDA dispatch in order to receive the exact location and find the elderly man in need of care. However, the MDA dispatcher refused to give him the details because he did not receive the information about the incident from his application. Zohar pleaded with the woman at MDA dispatch to send him the information over the phone or application because he was at the location and able to provide assistance. The dispatcher continued to refuse claiming that she is following the protocols of the Health Ministry.

Another incident occurred in Jerusalem, in which United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Avi Tennenbaum reported that a woman was giving birth in her home on Mirsky St. and that he received the alert because he was on the street at that time. He called Magen David Adom dispatch in order to receive the exact address of the woman giving birth. The MDA dispatcher refused to give the information over and insisted that Tennenbaum first confirm that he received a text message to the phone that he called MDA from. In spite of the dispatcher’s insistence that he sent the text message with the code to Tennenbaum three times, Tennenbaum never received the message and the dispatcher, therefore, refused to give him the information. Tennenbaum reiterated that he was on the street and able to assist the woman in her active labor but the dispatcher refused to give the information.

The letter of defense reads: “Read these stories, hear them, but it is next-to-impossible to believe that they actually occurred. United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs pleading with Magen David Adom’s dispatch to receive information regarding a medical emergency taking place, at a time when they are right next to the incident and only need the exact address in order to save the lives of the people who called for help and are in danger. However, Magen David Adom, due to improper reasons, prevented the passing of information in a manner that endangered lives.”

The letter also states that United Hatzalah has details of numerous other instances in which MDA withheld and prevented sharing life-saving information in real-time to the volunteers of United Hatzalah who were able to assist in a medical emergency. United Hatzalah stated that the cases illustrated in the Letter of Defense are “the tip of the iceberg with regards to how the style of operation of Magen David Adom endangers lives and how their monopoly on the emergency medical services in Israel threatens its citizens.”

United Hatzalah, which is being sued for 2.3 million shekel by Magen David Adom also stated in their defense letter that MDA is misleading the public with regards to how fast their response times are, claiming that they are among the fastest response times in the world and that their average response time is between eight and nine minutes. However, reality shows a different picture.

“The information that has been compiled by United Hatzalah shows that this is completely inaccurate and that in reality, MDAs response times are significantly longer than the ones which they show the public. These response times become even longer when MDA is responding in cities and towns in the periphery where average MDA response times can be upwards of 20 minutes. The large difference in response times is a result of the lack of presence of MDA teams in the peripheral regions.”

“During this time, in which people in the periphery are waiting for an ambulance, United Hatzalah volunteers could provide a response if MDA would only cooperate with us,” said the Letter of Defense. “MDA is hiding the information regarding their true response times in these areas from the public for a reason. This is part of the fight to protect MDA’s prestige at the expense of the Israeli public, in an attempt to protect their monopoly and their power.  The more the information regarding MDAs true response time is exposed, so too will the understanding that there must be full cooperation between all of the medical first response organizations in Israel in general and with United Hatzalah specifically.”

The Letter of Defense for United Hatzalah was presented on their behalf by Attorneys Amit Hadad, Noa Milstein and Yair Leshem from the office of Hadad Roth and partners. A spokesperson for the law office said: “For years now, Magen David Adom has refused to cooperate with United Hatzalah in a manner that has literally risked the lives of Israelis. Due to their refusal to pass on information, United Hatzalah volunteers have been prevented, numerous times, from arriving in due time to a medical emergency and to save lives. Instead of dealing with the practical criticism that has been passed on to Magen David Adom and learning from it and saving more lives, MDA has chosen to submit a fruitless lawsuit in an attempt to turn legitimate criticism into slander. We are confident that the court will decide unequivocally that this attempt will not succeed.”