Israel's Rapid Response to Medical Emergencies

In Israel, lives are lost every day due to the delay between calling for emergency help and the arrival of that help. 

United Hatzalah has set out to address this problem through a network of trained volunteers who respond to emergencies on medically-equipped motorcycles called “ambucycles” and provide care until an ambulance arrives. The high-tech, compact-sized ambucycles enable volunteers to reach a patient in an average time of less than three minutes, saving critical time and lives. 

Eli Beer founded United Hatzalah in 2006 after working on an ambulance as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and realizing the time barriers that stood in the way of saving lives. After heavy traffic, congestion, and distance prevented his ambulance from saving a young boy, Eli knew there had to be a better solution. Eli devoted his energy to developing a grassroots, community-driven approach, with he and his neighbors responding to emergencies on-foot using beepers, before later advancing to its use of ambucycles and GPS technology. 

Now, United Hatzalah has a diverse volunteer team. Community members of ranging backgrounds and professions who are interested in saving lives can take a course and a comprehensive exam to qualify as EMTs. 

Dov Rubin, who works as a food importer and is a father of six, has been volunteering as an EMT for nearly four years. He was inspired to join United Hatzalah after an experience of feeling helpless as he waited for an ambulance to respond to a neighbor in need. 

“When my friend and I finished our training to become the first EMTs in our community, the entire community breathed a sigh of relief. People saw how effective it was to have someone from the community be able to provide medical support and treatment, which led others to become certified as well,” Dov says.

Recently, Dov saved a newborn baby who was choking when he arrived at the scene in less than one minute. “The chance that this organization gives us as volunteers to save lives in terms of equipment, knowledge, and ability is simply amazing,” said Dov after the incident. 

Today, United Hatzalah’s 3,200 volunteers are saving more than 40,000 people in Israel each year. The organization directs dispatch operations from their Jerusalem headquarters. Built more than a decade ago, the command center was designed to manage up to 90,000 calls per year. Since then, United Hatzalah has grown considerably, along with demand for its services. 

With support from Helmsley, United Hatzalah is expanding and updating their command center to ensure that more calls are answered and more lives are saved. The new, state-of-the-art center is set to open in May 2017 and will be able to respond to as many as 350,000 calls per year. 

The Israeli organization’s unique model is also expanding internationally. United Hatzalah Panama was the first international adaptation, and it has proven to be successful since launching there in 2013. Last year, a pilot program launched in Jersey City, New Jersey, the first in the United States to implement the life-saving model, and there are plans to start up in Detroit, Michigan. 

Israel continues to be a leader in healthcare innovation by changing the way we solve health-related challenges, and United Hatzalah has certainly made its impact in improving emergency response. 

Photos courtesy of United Hatzalah Media Department.