When the second wave of coronavirus gradually demised in Israel, the IDF corona ward in the Rambam Health Care Campus was closed.But just like when IAF pilots are posted in a non-combat position – they still train their flight skills on a weekly basis – the medical staff who operated the ward continued training, understanding that the day will come to reopen the ward.And when the day came, in early January, the ward was set up in a few hours, Lt.-Col. Dr. Avi Benov, the deputy commander of the Shevet Achim operation told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.“In the second wave, when we first set up the corona ward in Rambam, it took us around a week to understand the system and adjust ourselves to a civilian-treatment mindset. However, in the third lockdown, the order [to set up a ward] came on Friday. On Sunday morning we were already in the hospital and in the afternoon we started receiving patients,” he said.The ward, which was one of biggest in the hospital at the peak of the wave, and treated some 170 patients so far, is composed of physicians, nurses and medics from the entire military. Benov himself specialized during his career in operational medicine and focused on improving the treatment of soldiers in the battlefield.“Despite the fact the IDF has strong ties to the civilian life in Israel, in fact in the entire history of the State of Israel, it never happened that the army treated civilians,” he said. “It might sound funny, but we had a long learning process before we first started.”

When asked when was the added value of having the IDF assisting the civilian Israeli health system, Benov said that first and foremost, they opened this ward because this is what the country needed, and asked for it.“The health establishment said that they needed help, and we immediately came,” he said. “We are in a national crisis here… It is like when a 669 chopper is the first to arrive at a car accident scene in the Arava. It has no added value – it is just there because it is needed,” he said.“The health system said that they are on the verge of collapsing, and we were there to open another ward,” he added. “If we weren’t there, those 170 patients had nowhere to go.”Benov mentioned that because of the relatively quiet military situation in Israel over the past ten years, for many doctors, this is the first time that they experience an event with multiple deaths.“This is some experience,” he said. “You [the patient] are all alone.“You take an 80-year-old man to a place under the ground where the light is on twenty-four-seven. Everyone around him is moving around in suits, looking like aliens. You touch them only through gloves. And then some people, who are at their very end, die alone,” he said.“I am proud that we, as the IDF, can be there with them till the very last second,” he said. “We don’t have [specific] working hours and we are always there for them. We assign our medics to sit by their beds and hold their hands in their last moments,” Benov added.“This is what the country is facing right now, and we are proud to serve our nation wherever we are needed,” he concluded.



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