Friday, March 25, 2011

Sammy Ofer Heart Building unveiled

Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv just unveiled the largest bomb-proof emergency facility in the country, which includes a four-story structure embedded underground and ensconced in a new building that bears the name of billionaire Sammy Ofer. The building is designed to hold between 700 and 1,000 hospital beds in case of an emergency. When not under attack, the multi-level underground structure will serve as a short-term parking lot for patients.

The new facility measures 56,000 square meters, with 13 floors above ground and 4 underground. It was built at an estimated cost of $110 million. Ofer donated $45 million to the endeavor. The facility, which provides protection against conventional, chemical, and biological attack, has also been fitted with water pipes, oxygen, electricity, ventilation, and enough fuel for generators to last one week if cut off from the external power grid. An even larger emergency hospital is currently being constructed at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. It is likely to boast of a capacity of 1,500 hospital beds that would serve residents of the north.

Ichilov officials have already prepared contingencies for emergency situations, whereby patients hospitalized at the new facility will only be allowed one family member to remain at the bedside. Hospital officials will put in force strict measures to ensure that the facility is not inundated with people seeking a bomb shelter.

President Shimon Peres was on hand to unveil the facility during a ceremony earlier this month. The Ofer building will hold internal medicine departments, cardiology units, and other departments that will be assigned to handle heart problems, blood supplies and testing, and brain trauma. The internal medicine units that are currently housed in the old building at Ichilov will be transferred to the new facility within two weeks. Ichilov officials are also making preparations to open a new internal medicine unit - the 10th in the entire hospital - that will include 36 beds.

Planning for the new structure began over a decade ago. Construction began in February 2008, shortly after Ofer announced that he was donating $77 million to Ichilov, Rambam, and Soroka Hospitals. The large infusion of cash expedited the bomb-proofing of the facilities, which was given greater importance following the Second Lebanon War.

The building is a monolithic glass-covered cube with red "urban" windows. The building is connected by an atrium within which suspended red bridges that remind blood vessels connect the visitors waiting room galleries. An urban gallery with coffee shops and a theater is planned parallel to Weizman Street.

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