Paramedics Face Off Over Saving Lives

Paramedics Face Off Over Saving Lives

Israel’s two main paramedic services have been competing for years about who gets to respond first when lives are at risk.

Magen David Adom is Israel’s national emergency medical services organization.
Magen David Adom is Israel’s national emergency medical services organization.

Israel’s two main paramedic services have been competing for years about who gets to respond first when lives are at risk. The conflict came to a head late last month when

Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical services, sued volunteer paramedic program, United Hatzalah, for failure to register its paramedics, MDA reported.

The lawsuit alleges that, following a Ministry of Health ruling that United Hatzalah register its paramedics through MDA’s dispatch center, United Hatzalah failed to comply, registering only a small number of its first responders and spreading disinformation about MDA.

The July 2017 order from the ministry was intended to reduce confusion about which organization to call in the event of an emergency, and read, “United Hatzalah will cease from publicizing its dispatch number so that public calls will reach the national first responders dispatch, making the procedure more efficient.”

According to a Jan. 14 MDA press release, all paramedic organizations, including United Hatzalah, have complied with the ministry’s order to register with MDA’s dispatch.

In its defense, United Hatzalah said MDA is trying to retain a monopoly, is financially motivated, and United Hatzalah wanted to continue to work with MDA to provide fast, effective care.

MDA said in its release that United Hatzalah can register through MDA’s app, which – in the event of an emergency – routes the five nearest first responders to the scene, regardless of whether those first responders are part of MDA, United Hatzalah or any other organization.

The suit also alleges that United Hatzalah has spread lies and disinformation about MDA, including a social media campaign using pictures with the phrase, “Cause of Death — MDA Monopoly,” among others.

MDA also alleges United Hatzalah lied about an incident in which a toddler choked to death. In 2017, MDA received an emergency call from United Hatzalah’s dispatch about the toddler, who was receiving treatment from Hatzalah paramedics. MDA, quoting official monitoring, says that its ambulance arrived eight minutes later, while Hatzalah officials told media outlets it took half an hour for the ambulance to arrive.

Other MDA officials have pointed to ideas United Hatzalah has spread as dishonest, such as the, “claim that calling 1221 is the same as calling 101.”

Dialing 101 is the official emergency dispatch number in Israel, whereas 1221 is United Hatzalah’s dispatch number. United Hatzalah still broadcasts the 1221 number on its website as 24/7 emergency medical response.

United Hatzalah is comprised of 5,000 volunteers from various backgrounds, as well as some Jewish Americans, answering an average 1,000 calls a day, according to its website. It boasts a 3-minute response time.

In a response to MDA’s statement, United Hatzalah responded that the ordeal was in keeping with MDA’s goal of retaining a monopoly on saving lives. MDA maintains that the goal is not to prevent United Hatzalah from helping those in need of aid, but instead, to streamline the process and work better together to coordinate responses to medical emergencies.

Both organizations provide lifesaving care to those in need during emergencies and play a key role in maintaining short response times and proper EMS treatment.

United Hatzalah echoed that sentiment in its statement, saying that its volunteers in the field would continue to work with MDA personnel.

“In the field we are all interested in the same thing, providing the fastest and best care possible. It’s a shame that the leadership of Magen David Adom doesn’t view our partnership in the same way,” Gavy Friedson, a Hatzalah medic now based part-time in Atlanta, said in a statement.

MDA’s claim is for about $736,000 and an end to any alleged disinformation campaign; United Hatzalah points to the amount as evidence of MDA being financially motivated, rather than focusing on lifesaving.

Compiled by AJT Staff

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