By NATHAN JEFFAY
Rocket sirens have constantly sounded around Israel’s newest rehab hospital over the last few days, but staff ignored them. As residents in nearby homes raced to bomb shelters — nurses, doctors and patients stayed exactly where they were.
The ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village is just 40 kilometers — 25 miles — from the Gaza border, next to the city of Ofakim. The village has operated for years, but its hospital is new.
It was clear to architects from early planning stages for the hospital that a huge part of it should be rocket-proof. Now, just three weeks after the first patients arrived, their plan is paying off. When the rocket barrages by Palestinian terrorists started on Friday, everyone was effectively already in a giant bomb shelter.
It’s not an underground bunker, but a regular-looking ward with plenty of natural light. The 3,000 square meter (32,000 square feet) reinforced section accounts for two-thirds of the entire hospital. There was a strong push to ensure that life continues as normally as possible in security crises, since the hospital — officially known as the Kaylie Rehabilitation Medical Center — houses patients who often need long stays because they are being rehabilitated after strokes, injuries, and accidents.
When the latest rocket fire started, all patients were already in the reinforced section.
“These could have been very scary days, but the design has left everyone feeling very safe,” Dr. Itzhak Siev-Ner, head of the rehabilitation center, told The Times of Israel.
He commented: “Caring for the most vulnerable patients in the country, so close to the Gaza border, could be a very scary endeavor for both the patients and the medical professionals. It’s nearly impossible to focus on rehabilitation while you are under fire.
“The sheltered section of the hospital can accommodate 72 beds, and there are protected spaces in the physiotherapy, occupational therapy and communication treatment areas as well, so we can provide ongoing therapies and treatments in a safe environment despite the aggression in the region.”
Some staff members needed to stop their cars when driving to work, and shelter by the roadside, as rocket alarms sounded. But nurse Shoshi Diamant said morale was high.
“The patients feel protected, and the peace of mind allows them to concentrate on healing,” she commented. “The situation of the last few days, though unfortunate, is a testament to our commitment to our patients. Nothing can deter us from providing them with optimal care in a warm and secure environment. This is how we are beginning, and this is how will continue.”
Dr. Shilo Kramer, head of inpatient rehabilitation, said that while he had expected to need to rely on the hospital’s reinforcements, he hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.
“We had no idea that we would have to give the building’s protective features a test run just three weeks after opening the doors to patients, but it is gratifying to know that the people in our care are among the safest in the region,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there are those who seek to harm us, but we will continue to do our part to keep the most vulnerable among us safe and secure.”