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Israeli underground hospital conversion for treating COVID-19 patients

Michal Halberthal, MD, MHA, Gidon Berger, MD, Khetam Hussein, MD, Shimon Reisner, MD, MHA, Michal Mekel, MD, Netanel A. Horowitz, MD, Yael Shachor-Meyouhas, MD, Yuval Geffen, PhD, Gila Hyams, RN, Rafael Beyar, MD, DSc


Objective: This paper describes how a large academic medical center solved the challenges of war preparedness and subsequently adapted them for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Setting: A 1,000-bed academic medical center in Northern Israel has faced two extreme challenges since 2006: operating under missile attack during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and rapid establishment of a scalable infrastructure for COVID-19 patients. The first challenge led to construction of a dual-use facility: a parking lot during peacetime, and a fully functioning fortified underground emergency hospital (FUEH) in times of emergency. Several drills have confirmed readiness for various scenarios including conventional and unconventional warfare, and treating isolated patients during the Ebola and SARS threats.

Results: The hospital achieved preparedness for patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic, including all facilities and personnel, including infrastructure, laboratories, and innovations, to maintain standard patient care and separate COVID-19 treatment facilities. The hospital’s second challenge represented by the COVID-19 pandemic led to adaptation of the FUEH as a key strategic facility in Northern Israel for treating hundreds of COVID-19 patients. Each solution was supported by innovations targeted for specific purposes and needs.

Conclusions: The function and unique mechanisms used to leverage use of a dual facility was proven viable for several emergency conditions, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Infrastructure and technological flexibility is essential when planning for handling different emergencies situations.


COVID-19, emergency drills, fortified underground hospital

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