Nazareth Hospital dir.: Coronavirus is opportunity for Arabs to integrate

‘More than 80% of families in the Arab sector have someone working in the health system as nurses, physicians and pharmacists’

Professor Fahed Hakim (photo credit: COURTESY: NAZARETH HOSPITAL)
Professor Fahed Hakim
As the number of Arab Israelis who have tested positive for coronavirus has increased, Professor Fahed Hakim, medical director of Nazareth Hospital, the largest medical facility in the Arab sector, praised the Health Ministry and the IDF on Friday for their assistance in combating the pandemic.
He also expressed hope that the leaders of the Arab sector would use the crisis to display leadership and solidarity and work more towards integrating Arab citizens into Israeli society.
"There is a good connection between the Health Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office regarding what’s happening in the Arab sector,” Hakim said. “Everyone here, including our facility, understands that this is a time of cooperation, and not a time to widen gaps. This cooperation is happening very well and I can commend it and say that it’s going to the positive side.”
Most of the leaders of the Arab Israelis, including the MKs, “are defining the problem and coming to the Health Ministry and offering solutions in order not just to blame,” he said.
Hakim pointed out that his hospital’s budget is out of its hands. “The budget is not ours,” he said. “We don’t have budgets here: It comes from the Health Ministry. The three departments that we built here for coronavirus patients were actually funded by the ministry. We’re talking about millions of shekels. The IDF also provided us with ventilators and other equipment.”
The hospital director said he believes that the most significant factor concerning cooperation between his hospital and the Israeli authorities is that “there is a change in the state of mind.”
The Health Ministry,” he added, “is opening the doors and they are willing to listen.”
With the help of the ministry, Nazareth Hospital has opened three special wards for treating coronavirus patients, and a fourth department will be opened soon. The coronavirus wards are called “Victory Departments.”
"Victory Department" for coronavirus patients (Courtesy: Nazareth Hospital)"Victory Department" for coronavirus patients (Courtesy: Nazareth Hospital)
“For now, we have only three patients who have been admitted to our hospital,” Hakim said. “Most of the patients are mildly ill and don’t need hospitalization. They have been sent home or to hotels arranged for them.”
Hakim said that what makes Nazareth Hospital unique is it also has a 100-year-old school of nursing where 300 to 400 nurses are studying.
“We have more staffing and nursing, while the world is suffering from a shortage of medical teams,” he said. “We’re getting more nurses or those about to finish studying engaged with the coronavirus pandemic, and we want them to be ready when we need them.”
He said he sees the current crisis as an opportunity for the Arabs in Israel to be part of what’s happening in all of the Middle East and in the country itself.
“For the first time, you see that every citizen in Israel is actually involved in activities against this pandemic,” Hakim explained. “About 25% of Arab citizens are involved in the healthcare system in Israel. This is very important, and the country is relying on these citizens. We can’t put them aside and say we want to work only with people we know. We have Arabs who are leaders in the country’s big hospital. More than 80% of families in the Arab sector have someone working in the health system as nurses, physicians and pharmacists.”
Hakim also expressed deep satisfaction with the number of Arab citizens who volunteered to help fight the disease.
“The amount of volunteering and the amount of people who want to be engaged is amazing,” he said. “They are not running away. People are calling and saying they want to be engaged in the fight against the pandemic. In our facility we have 890 staff members, and no one wants to leave. I’m really proud of what’s happening in the Arab sector and how people are dealing with it.”
Hakim said he would like to see the sector work towards more integration in Israel after the pandemic is gone.
“We don’t want to go back to where we started,” he stressed. “We need to move forward. Every citizen is a soldier today. The leaders of the Arab sector are putting it to a challenge: a challenge of leadership, a challenge of solidarity and a challenge of being operative. We are showing that we are good leaders and that we are here to live in a positive way. I see that as a real opportunity.”