by Andrew Friedman
Knesset Speaker Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein, Binyamin Regional Council Chairman Avi Roeh, MKs Yuval Steinitz (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), and a host of local dignitaries gathered last Thursday at the Binyamin Industrial Park, north of Jerusalem adjacent to Psagot, to lay the cornerstone for a medical center slated to become the largest provider of health services for both Israelis and Palestinian Authority citizens in Judea and Samaria.
The Binyamin Medical Center, a joint project of the Yesha Council, the One Israel Fund, and local authorities, is to serve as the industrial zone’s largest source of employment and consumer traffic, in addition to the existing Rami Levi supermarket, hi-tech park, and restaurants.
The center is modeled on the Efrat Medical Center, which is located south of Jerusalem in the Etzion bloc. The center in Efrat, built originally to provide emergency services during the second intifada, has expanded in recent years to offer a wide range of health care services, including x-rays, physiotherapy, dentistry, a pharmacy, and branches of the Meuchedet and Maccabi HMOs.
According to Rabbi David Marcus, senior development officer at the One Israel Fund who will oversee construction of the new center, the BMC will draw on local healthcare professionals to offer an even wider range of services.
“Of course, emergency care is the driving force behind the center,” said Marcus, who formerly served as the general manager of the Efrat Medical Center. “The closest emergency care available to residents of Binyamin and Samaria today is in Jerusalem. It can easily take an hour or more to get from communities like Eli and Shilo to the capital.”
“Furthermore, if you look at the geography of the area, you see that access to Jerusalem can be limited. All it takes is a winter snow storm or a forest fire in the heat of summer to potentially block Route 60. For all these reasons, the region needs a top-notch medical facility,” he added.
The 7,000-square meter center will house all regional emergency services, including Magen David Adom, Hatzolah, the IDF Medical Corps, and local medical and security teams.
Several health care providers have expressed interest in renting space in the building to provide a range of services, such as a women’s health clinic, a surgical center, advanced eye care, hydrotherapy, a center for the treatment of eating disorders, psychology, and other specialists’ offices. The center will also integrate all regional medical and emergency resources under one roof, including public and private HMOs.
The center also represents a new model for healthcare funding. Marcus said that a stand-alone emergency room in Efrat would have been expensive to run and difficult to maintain financially, but by offering rental space to a host of medical services, the group seized on a model that both allowed doctors and health care providers to expand their services to the community as well as to ensure the fiscal integrity of the enterprise.