The Rambam Medical Centre in the northern Israeli city of Haifa is the world’s first underground fortified emergency hospital.
Built to withstand missiles and rockets in the event of an attack, it can fit up to 2,000 beds. In peace time, however, the underground facility solves a much more mundane urban problem, providing 1,500 much-needed parking spaces.
A drill was carried out in March to practise for disaster situations.
“Obviously to put an underground hospital or something like this, it’s a waste of area and lots of resources, so it was decided to build something that was also very needed in a hospital, a parking lot, a versatile parking lot that in case of emergency transforms into the biggest underground hospital in the world,” explained Michael Halberthal, deputy director of the Rambam Health Care Campus.
Hospital officials say they need 72 hours to turn the car park into a fully-operational medical facility, which would include all the wards of a regular hospital.
Impromptu operating theatres and mock injured patients were also part of the drill.
“It’s very important to have a place like this because people can receive treatment without fear of bombardments or coming under fire. If they receive treatment in a place that is secure, it makes people feel that they’re in good hands,” said Hospital Military Unit Commander, Amal Maadi.
The construction of the facility presented major technical challenges. Built to withstand biological and chemical attacks, parts of it are located so deep underground beneath the water table that millions of litres had to be pumped out.
The parking lot is set to open in May.