How do you protect the entire population of a hospital while fighting the coronavirus pandemic? The Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem is facing this daunting task with much planning and care.

Prof. Ze’ev Rotstein, director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, explains, “We’re doing everything in our power to guard the health of the hospital patients and the care staff, who these days are especially needed and are working around the clock even more intensely.”

As you enter the Hadassah Hospital today—and every day for the foreseeable future—you will immediately encounter a hospital security guard equipped with a digital thermometer. At the same time that the thermometer is remotely measuring your body heat without making contact with you, you are being questioned about how you feel, whom you have been with, and where you have traveled. If you do have a temperature, you have to enter through a separate entrance and will undergo further examination.

It is a critical operation for several reasons. First, the hospital wants to be sure that visitors are not bringing COVID-19 into the building. Second, it is urgent that patients in the hospital be protected. And finally, the physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, infectious disease specialists and staff need to feel secure.

As you enter the emergency room, you will witness the medical teams making life or death decisions. Every day they have to decide how to treat everyone who comes to the ER thinking that they may have the coronavirus. Is this a case of “maybe,” is this someone who as “had contact,” is this a person who “has symptoms,” or is this a case where tests are warranted “just to rule out?” It can be very stressful knowing that your decision is so important.

These doctors, nurses, laboratory personnel, technicians, infectious disease experts, and all the active staff are on the front lines. These are the people who react quickly, pick up signs or data from the suspected cases, and know that every minute and second is important.

Hadassah has responded to the coronavirus crisis in Israel by establishing a contagious disease ward (ICU) on the 5th floor of the hospital’s old tower (Round Building), which is currently being renovated. “We still haven’t finished tearing out all the old wards,” Prof Rotstein says,” so we have the option of using them for this purpose. We have the luxury of being able to keep these patients separate from the rest of the hospital as we are able to treat the rest of our inpatients in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower.”

The Outbreak ICU is receiving patients with severe respiratory problems. At the time of this writing the unit has 12 patients, both men and women between the ages of 18 and 72.

In addition, 15 pediatricians have had to isolate themselves because a woman who accompanied a sick child to be treated at Hadassah several days ago has since tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital is working with the family.

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