Locals Make Fundraising Pitch for Israeli Hospital’s Cardiac Unit

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Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Israel offers its cardiac patients a contrast in that its care is considered top-notch, but its facilities — some of which are wooden barracks dating to its 1953 founding — are decidedly rustic.

That’s why the American Friends of Kaplan Medical Center (AFKMC) met March 30 in Philadelphia and conducted a fundraising videoconference call with hospital leaders, as well as other United States-based members of the organization.

“We’ve heard the vision,” said Lou Balcher, the AFKMC’s national director. “It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this.”

Balcher was among the team beating the drum for the team to identify philanthropists who might be willing to contribute to the hospital.

AFKMC, which was incorporated in 2008 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), is running a national “brick-by-brick” campaign to raise $15 million for Kaplan’s new high-tech cardiac center, which is expected to cost $45 million. The state of Israel is expected to match each U.S. dollar with three of its own — more than enough to cover the cost. The hope is for construction to begin in 2018; the project itself has been in planning for four years.

As configured, the entire hospital now has more than 600 beds, 10 operating rooms and a 26-bed emergency room, according to its website. More than 60,000 patients are admitted annually, while there are 130,000 ER admissions and 15,000 surgeries performed. In addition, there are more than 250,000 outpatients and upward of 6,500 babies delivered each year. It also is an academic and teaching hospital.

The cardiac program is known for a high percentage of radial procedures, which go through the wrist rather than the groin, as well as the replacement of heart valves through blood vessels, as opposed to open-heart surgery.

Kaplan CEO Carlos Gruzman and chief cardiologist Kobi George both spoke during the conference.

The hospital often treats those in lower socioeconomic groups, such as Ethiopian immigrants, Gruzman said.

George noted that Kaplan is competing with two other cardiac facilities in Israel, both of which are in Tel Aviv.

“It’s all about prestige,” he admitted, “but this is good for the patients.”

George pointed out that the other facilities have professional fundraisers and are better-known worldwide, but said Kaplan’s quality of care takes a backseat to neither of them.

“We are built for dealing with patients,” he said. “There are no shining parties for fundraising.”

Aside from treating heart diseases and other issues as they occur, the hospital invests considerable time in teaching preventive measures, George said.

AFKMC Chairman Jacques Abramowicz, who spoke from Chicago, said people would travel from all over southern Israel, where Kaplan is located, to go to the new facility. The hospital itself already serves a population of more than 1 million, about 12 percent of the total Israeli population.

“I like to go with the underdog,” he said. “We have started to make inroads. … If we build it, they shall come.”

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