Dr. Yehezkel Caine, President of Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, spoke at Temple Anshei Shalom of Delray Beach, Florida, on Sunday, January 14, 2024.
Ahead of his presentation, Dr. Caine explained his role as president, and expressed how the hospital’s mission has been affected since the Hamas-Israel war began on October 7th, 2023.
“As president, my main focus is on the strategic development of the hospital; issues of planning, construction, research/ development and fundraising. October 7th has shined a spotlight onto the issues of mental health as well. Regrettably, the numbers of returning hostages has been small and they have been treated in government centers closer to their geographic residence. We are closely following what the medium and long term effects will be.”
Dr. Caine expressed why the hospital’s proximity to the war is so vital.
“The hospital specializes in three of the most vital areas for the war effort: Mental Health, Rehabilitation and Respiratory care. Herzog Medical Center has the largest respiratory unit in Israel – possibly in the world – with over 250 patients supported on ventilators at any given time. So we are in great demand. In the first week of the war we had to admit over 30 such cases, mostly from the south, where there were massive casualties.
“In addition, we have the largest underground emergency hospital in the greater Jerusalem area. This is especially important to enable ongoing care even during a bombardment. The hospital has 240 of these special beds and now, as a result of the war and the possibility that we might have to admit patients transferred from other hospitals, we are now urgently adding another 100 sheltered beds.
“Another step that we are taking is to move the dialysis center into the sheltered hospital so as to enable continuity of care during a bombardment. And, we are now adding an imaging center adjacent to that facility with full imaging capabilities (CT, MRI, Ultrasound) to be able to continue the care. Additional special facilities within the mental health division are: 1) the ‘Metiv’ Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (PTSD) which is an affiliate of the hospital and is a specialty center specializing in PTSD. 2) a special clinic for the 18-25 year old age group with special issues that actually came to the forefront during Covid. Special urgent care units have been set up off of the hospital campus. We have ‘Swat teams’ comprised primarily of specially trained social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists who are in attendance at the hotels and other locations of the displaced families and individuals from the South and the North of the country. We are currently in four locations.”
As a surgeon general who served with the Israeli Air Force, Dr. Caine shared his thoughts regarding the treatment of the wounded IDF personnel.
“The response is outstanding: 1) the presence of highly trained personnel in the front lines with the troops so when a soldier is injured, treatment begins immediately. 2) advanced equipment and techniques in the front lines so rapid evacuation to a trauma center via helicopters (which are very close to the front lines).”
Dr. Caine discussed the hospital’s expansion plans. “We have just completed a new masterplan to take the medical center into the 2030s. The hospital will double its size from the current 550 beds to 1,200 beds. This will include adding a number of buildings, many new services and, most importantly, to embark on construction of a new Mental Health Center to expand and upgrade the beds available and the outpatient facilities to care for the vast array of mental health issues.”
Dr. Caine explained some of the programs offered by the hospital:
“We run a program to train young Ethiopian-Israeli women to work as nurses’ aides. The program is not just for the Ethiopian population; we have had similar groups from other populations, such as the Bnei Menashe, Palestinian women, and others. This gives them a big boost both morally and economically with a guaranteed job. Other programs run by or in cooperation with the hospital include training programs for therapists in Psychotrauma and what is now being recognized as the need to ‘care for the caregivers’, especially the therapists themselves who are exposed to so many tragedies and traumatic stories first hand. We also opened a special center for the Ministry of Defense to give support and mental health care to all the security forces in the greater Jerusalem area as well as the southern region of the country. We actually started this project just before the war began.”
In closing, Dr. Caine shared the hospital’s relationship with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
“The hospital is named after President Herzog’s grandmother – the Rabbanit Sarah Herzog, wife of the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and the third President of the hospital, for almost 40 years. In recognizing his grandmother’s contribution, President Herzog has put medical care on his agenda and is very supportive of our work. He has visited the hospital a number of times and has also studied the masterplan during one of his visits.”
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