Jerusalem Symphony to play benefit concert


Baltimore's Jewish community is pitching in to help build a trauma center in Jerusalem, where the 2-year-old Palestinian uprising has flooded hospitals with a growing number of victims of violence.

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra comes to Baltimore on Monday for a benefit concert to begin the campaign to raise $2 million locally for Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

The 500-bed hospital in the heart of the Israeli capital treats 57,000 people a year in its emergency room, more than three times the number handled a decade ago. (The University of Maryland Medical Center, by comparison, sees more than 60,000 a year in its ER.)

To handle the growth, the 101-year-old hospital, whose Hebrew name translates as "gates of righteousness," is raising a total of $30 million to build an expanded emergency department, of which the trauma center would be part. Although hospital operating costs are essentially reimbursed by the health maintenance organizations that cover all Israelis, private hospitals such as Shaare Zedek get no government funding for construction or modernization.

The Baltimore area has been targeted for fund raising for the hospital's trauma center, supporters say, in part because of this region's identification with Maryland Shock Trauma Center, which pioneered development of specialized trauma care.

Shock Trauma, a unit of the University of Maryland Medical Center, "serves as a model to every shock and trauma unit in the world," said Dr. Jonathan Halevy, Shaare Zedek's director general. He visited Baltimore this week to assist with the fund-raising effort.

The frequency with which Shaare Zedek is inundated with badly injured people has increased since the Palestinian uprising began in the fall of 2000, Halevy said.

There have been at least 20 "mass-casualty" incidents - bombings or shootings - in which Jerusalem hospitals have been flooded with victims. Shaare Zedek's share was 558 people, he said.

The number of critically injured people arriving at one time can tax the hospital's five-bed "shock" room, Halevy explained. It was built in 1978 and lacks the space or equipment of a modern trauma center. Doctors and nurses must move less-injured patients out into corridors when victims of mass violence are brought there.

Shaare Zedek's campaign for a new emergency department and trauma unit coincides with one launched about the same time by Jerusalem's largest hospital. Hadassah's Ein Kerem facility has had a dedicated trauma unit for more than a decade, which it now seeks to expand.

"It just shows that the city of Jerusalem needs two trauma centers," Halevy said.

Shaare Zedek's new trauma center and emergency department - more than three times as large as the current ER - would be built on the hospital's second floor, below ground level. Most of the medical center's vital operations were built on three underground levels, to improve the chances they could keep operating even in wartime.

Like other Israeli hospitals, Shaare Zedek treats all sick and injured, regardless of nationality or religion, Halevy said. He noted that a Russian immigrant physician and a Palestinian physician worked side by side treating victims of the Palestinian bombing of Hebrew University's cafeteria last summer.

"We all hope, when we complete the project in early 2004, peace will prevail and the unit will treat victims of automobile accidents and domestic accidents," the hospital director said.

Tickets for the concert, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, cost $35, $45 and $100. Information: 410-486-9303.

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