The relationship between Soroka University Medical Center and the IDF has always been solid, and the history of the hospital is intertwined with the history of the military campaigns and wars of Israel. From its first days, the hospital has served wounded IDF soldiers as well as civilian terror victims. Now, with major IDF bases moving to the South, Soroka looks forward to further strengthening its traditionally strong connection with the military.
Throughout the 1960s, which were characterized by a great deal of military activity, many wounded soldiers were treated in Soroka's Surgical and Orthopedics departments. With the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, the hospital faced the challenge of operating under emergency conditions for the first time since its opening. It successfully passed its baptism of fire, gaining an excellent reputation in terms of patient care and treatment of the families of the wounded. Following the Six-Day War, while all the other hospitals in Israel returned to their regular routines, Soroka naturally remained on the front lines, treating the wounded from the 3-year period of attrition in the area of the Suez Canal. Often our doctors went into the field to treat the wounded, as they did when a bomb exploded in the Port of Eilat or when passengers from a Libyan plane downed by the IAF near the Suez Canal needed medical care.
On Yom Kippur, Shabbat October 6, 1973 at 12:00 noon, the hospital went into emergency mode. During the Yom Kippur War, 820 beds were available, 6 operating rooms were in operation, and over 400 operations were performed, some extremely complicated, saving the lives of many of the wounded. A special unit for intensive respiratory care was put into operation.
More recently, in the January, 2009 Operation Cast Lead, the city of Beer-Sheva came under missile fire from the Gaza Strip and the IDF conducted a ground campaign against Gaza. This was a trying and difficult time of high anxiety and fear, but Soroka stood strong as a pillar of strength and professionalism for soldiers and civilians.
In the shadow of the escalation in the South and the missile fire on Beer-Sheva, Soroka had prepared ahead of time for all possible scenarios. The alert level at the hospital was raised, and the hospital entered a "special situation" in which key figures in all medical areas were placed on high alert and were ready to arrive at short notice day and night. In a matter of hours, 110 mothers who had just given birth and 56 premature babies were transferred to the new building for Maternity and Gynecology six months before its planned opening. This rapid organization allowed us to provide the best possible services to the mothers and babies.
A 24-hour "situation room" was established at the hospital with the opening of the ground campaign, and manned with representatives of the management, senior physicians, nurses, and others. Equipped with advanced technological means, it allowed for full control over data and activities at the hospital, which worked around the clock.
A special unit for treating victims of trauma was opened and included psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, doctor, and nurses who provided immediate care to those in need. Over 50 surgical operations were conducted on soldiers and civilians by various surgeons—neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, ear, nose, and throat surgeons, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons, and more. All the soldiers and citizens treated at Soroka during Operation Cast Lead were released in good condition following treatment.
Facts and Figures from Operation Cast Lead
- 582 wounded were treated at Soroka. Of these more than 200 were soldiers wounded in the Gaza Strip
- Over 300 civilians with physical wounds and emotional damage) were treated at Soroka
- Dozens of operations were conducted on the wounded
- Hundreds of units of blood were donated for the wounded
- 19 helicopters with wounded landed at the hospital's landing pad
- 9 departments were moved to protected areas of the hospital
- Approximately 500 volunteers worked at the hospital
- 825 babies were born during the war
Since the schools were closed, over 300 children of hospital workers attended a "camp" in a protected area of the hospital so that their parents could continue to work routinely and calmly during the war. Music lessons, films, computer games, science lessons, games, and more were provided by volunteers and the staff of the Educational Center for Hospitalized Children. In addition, over 70 children of hospital workers were sent to Haifa to a special camp during the war.
Stories from Operation Cast Lead
- Ben Buchnik, the last soldier from Gaza who was in grave condition, was taken by helicopter to the trauma room at Soroka on the last Saturday of the war in the afternoon with a head injury and hospitalized in the ICU. Approximately 24 hours later, he regained consciousness and began to breathe on his own. He was hospitalized in the Department of Neurosurgery and eventually discharged in good condition
- A moving brit mila ceremony was held at Soroka's synagogue for the nephew of soldier Dvir Bar Hai, who was seriously wounded during the war. The family decided to hold the brit near the wounded uncle
- One of the soldiers was hospitalized with a piece of shrapnel close to his aorta. In a rare surgical procedure, Soroka surgeons removed the shrapnel from his heart and the soldier was released after a few days in good condition. The director of the Department of Cardiothoracic surgery gave him the piece of shrapnel and a video tape of the surgery as souvenirs.