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Prescribing the right medicine

Updated: Nov 25, 2016 Print


Meir Oren inspects ward at the First Hospital affiliated to Shihezi University in Xinjiang.  [Photo provided to China Daily]

An expert on medical emergency is now helping a hospital in Northwest China. In the 1990s, he used to work as a senior official in Israel's Health Ministry.

His expertise includes hospital preparedness for exceptional scenarios such as bacterial warfare, bioterrorism or natural disasters. The military trained him for such emergencies in his youth.

"It's a common challenge that any hospital manager faces," Meir Oren, 68, says.

Oren started his China chapter in 2010, when a colleague who had worked here earlier introduced him to some hospitals. Then, the Hillel-Yaffe Medical Center, a major hospital in Hadera, Israel, with which he has been long associated, organized staff visits to hospitals in Sichuan province, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Shanxi province and Beijing.

After the tour, Oren, a former CEO of Hillel-Yaffe, saw an opportunity to help the First Hospital affiliated to Shihezi University in Xinjiang, because of the Israeli hospital's experience in trauma treatment. So far, three joint seminars on emergency preparedness, attended by medical professionals and senior healthcare officials have been held in Israel.

Such interactions have given doctors and the Shihezi hospital management a chance to observe Hillel-Yaffes' operations over weeks.

"When they return to China, they are able to implement many concepts and practices that they find suitable here," Oren says.

At the Shihezi hospital, international conferences related to emergency preparedness are held every two years, with assistance from Oren's center where he was CEO until last year.

The tie-up seems to be working.

In 2011, Zhang Hongwei, a general surgeon of the Shihezi hospital was able to establish a new emergency department there following his return from a training program at Hillel-Yaffe.

The Chinese doctors "quickly understood how important it is to cope successfully with terror events and other emergencies", Oren says.

In the past few years, his organization has trained more than 100 medical professionals from different partner hospitals in China, both in clinical fields and emergency situations, in Israel.

Training programs have also been carried out in China. And they have helped many hospitals in China, according to his colleague Moris Topaz, who initially asked Oren to come to China.

Oren himself has recommended many Israeli experts to China for academic exchanges, training and conferences over the years.

His relationship with the country is more than professional.

Oren says he has developed long-term friendships with some Chinese who make him feel like family. He has made a number of trips to China, staying about 10 days during each visit. And while on work here, he has also found the time to discover Chinese culture, landscapes and cuisines.


Oren poses with Peng Xinyu, president of the hospital, after a Sino-Israeli seminar on preventing and dealing with major emergency incidents. [Photo provided to China Daily]

He watches Chinese television channels when he is back in Israel and follows news about China.

Understanding public policy in the country is as important as getting a sense of China's society and culture, he says.

Before he retired from Hillel-Yaffe last October, he brought his successor to China from the center.

"The cooperation is wonderful. It should continue and go deeper," he says of China.

In 2015, Oren received the Friendship Award, the highest honor given by the Chinese government to foreigners who have made significant contribution to the country's social and economic development.

"It's a great honor. I feel obliged to contribute more to the Chinese people and the Chinese government with my expertise," he says.

While he was in Beijing for the award ceremony, Premier Li Keqiang encouraged the award recipients to keep sending suggestions for China's development in relevant fields.

After that, Oren worked out a proposal urging China to improve its emergency preparedness in the healthcare system according to different priorities of different regions.

"Israel is a small country, but unfortunately we have lots of experience with conflicts. In that respect, we have the advantage to cope with a variety of emergency scenarios," he says.

"From our understanding of the Chinese healthcare system, we think there is a gap that needs to be bridged," he says, adding that Israel can share more experiences of quick response to mass casualty events.

Oren completed the proposal with contributions from his partners and experts in China. They held a first seminar on the draft of his proposal in October in Beijing.

"I hope the proposal will be forwarded to the premier as soon as possible so that the system is launched from the top," says Oren, who suggests a pilot project can be launched in Shihezi.

He notes that China has a lot of knowledge and experience, for example, in dealing with earthquakes and highly contagious diseases, to share with the world, at a time when such cases of emergency are occurring more often.

"Each country has its own strong points. I'm really looking forward to joint activities such as anti-terror drills between China and Israel in the future," he says.

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