For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak in Israel, family members are now allowed to visit coronavirus patients at Hadassah-University Medical Center, in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood.
"The patient's need for a familiar and calming family member, someone who can stay by the bed, can give comforting touches and of course listen and talk for a while, is clear and even necessary as a part of a healing and recovery process," said Dr. Rely Alon, vice president of nursing at Hadassah.
Hadassah Ein Kerem will allow a designated family member to visit a hospitalized coronavirus patient by prior arrangement and after filling out a questionnaire and health statement. The idea for the decision came from nurses who when taking care of patients realized a need for family members to be by the side of their sick relatives. The program was initiated after a prior program in the hospital that allowed recovered coronavirus patients to visit sick patients in the coronavirus wards to help with their care, and comfort them.
Family members will also be allowed into intensive care units - delicately and one at a time.
"The entrance to the coronavirus wards will be coordinated, organized and done in moderation," said Alon.
"The coronavirus has a deceptive nature and the course of the disease for moderate to severe patients is unpredictable. Fear and apprehension of the unknown invites the disease, loneliness is also a factor when a patient, who is usually conscious, remains in an isolated ward while the nursing and medical staff are completely busy - those who work around the clock 24 hours a day for the benefit of the patient are not always available to sit and chat."
The decision was made after the success of a volunteer program in the hospital that allowed recovered coronavirus patients to enter wards and assist patients. Hadassah Ein Kerem is both the first and only hospital in the country that has operated such a project, which has been running for several months and has been a huge step in the recovery and general improvement of the patient's well-being.
"Participants in the program are recovered coronavirus patients who have been tested, found to be negative and have a high level of coronavirus antibodies," said Orit Meridan, director of patient care services at the hospital.
The project is compromised of more than 40 dedicated people who are fully protected and enter the coronavirus wards to feed the patients, listen to them and help with everything that is needed with a positive and warm energy. Participates engage in small talk and take an interest in their patient's condition, and assist in dressing, bathing and feeding. They even make warm cups of tea, help with putting on tefillin and will read with their patients.
"Patients are in awe when someone comes in and introduces themselves as someone who has come just to be with them and invest their time," Meridan said.
Hadassah is also the first to develop 'contact nurses' for the purpose of updating families on the health status of patients and what is expected in the future. Hadassah has received much feedback from families stating that the relationship with the nurses is highly valued and helps reduce stress and worry.
The project to allow visiting family members - depending on the health status of the patient and the visitor - began this week.
"The initiative was born from coronavirus nursing teams who repeatedly receive requests from families to hear more about their sick relatives and request to come visit them in the ward," explained Meridan.
"From this staff understood the enormous importance of bringing in a family member to visit the patient in order to provide strength and improve his perseverance during his time in the hospital," she added.
All visits are coordinated with the hospital ward social worker, Meridan emphasized, noting that there is no point for a family member to just show up and request to see their relative.
"The conduct is very strict. During the coordination with the social worker each family representative undergoes a screening process where they are subject to answering questions about their health, including questions regarding fevers, symptoms, history of background illnesses, and of course whether they belong to an at risk demographic," Meridan explained.
Upon their arrival, a family member must fill out and sign a health declaration. From there they undergo full training on the protection protocol and conduct in the ward. In order to maintain safety of visitors, at risk visitors will not be allowed to enter.
"We do this with the required amount of care, and with maximum protection for both families and patients in the ward," Meridan said.