Calm, comfortable cancer treatment at Place2Heal

Place2Heal is transforming Israel’s outpatient cancer treatment centers into less stressful, even tranquil spaces

 (photo credit: JUDY BOGEN)
(photo credit: JUDY BOGEN)
Judy Milston Bogen received her breast-cancer diagnosis shortly after she and her family arrived in Maryland for a three-year stay as Jewish Agency emissaries. When they moved back to Modi’in in 2011, she visited a highly recommended oncologist to discuss ongoing care and reconstructive surgery.
“The doctor was fantastic, but the clinic itself was depressing and old,” she recalls.
Bogen discovered that outpatient cancer treatment in Israel is excellent, but it often takes place in a dreary windowless space with harsh artificial lighting and outdated furniture, “decorated” with some plastic plants and a few wall posters.
She knew only too well that physical surroundings have a direct impact on mood and stress levels during the long days that cancer patients spend in treatment centers.
Bogen began researching patient-centered care and evidence-based healthcare design, a concept that emphasizes the impact of the physical environment on the emotional and physical well-being of patients undergoing treatment.
In May 2016, Bogen registered Place2Heal (www.p2h.co.il) as a nonprofit organization devoted to what she calls “wellness by design.”
Her goal was to provide outpatients with a stress-free environment “in the hope of moving the focus from illness to wellness.”
The first hospital with which she signed a contact backed out in September 2018, after almost a year of groundwork.
Disappointed but undeterred, Bogen approached the government-funded Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, a 700-bed hospital that treated 14,000 cancer patients in 2018, and 15,000 in 2019. Over the course of a year, approximately half of these patients visit the oncology day treatment center, where 30 staff members work under department chief Dr. Ronen Brenner and head oncology nurse Ofra Ravizdra.
On July 13, 2020, Bogen and the staff jubilantly unveiled the result of the first stage in the process: the total remodeling of one of the five treatment rooms and a section of the hallway.
“The space was very institutional. The furniture was old and everything looked very dull. It was dark and cramped with yellowed curtains – very drab and depressing,” Bogen recalls.
Now the six-patient treatment room has been transformed into “a beautiful space, calming and comfortable,” she says. “It looks modern, with a good combination of strong colors combined with paler colors. The difference is huge.” Though the makeover began almost a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the process considerably. Bogen expresses gratitude to the donors who made it possible and to all who lent a hand to the renovation.
“We worked all along with the hospital’s engineering department and the contractor they brought in,” she explains.
(FROM LEFT) Wolfson head of engineering Gadi Davidovitch; Fogel; Engel; Bogen and Orna Tsvi, head of nursing. (Courtesy)(FROM LEFT) Wolfson head of engineering Gadi Davidovitch; Fogel; Engel; Bogen and Orna Tsvi, head of nursing. (Courtesy)
“SOMEONE FROM the Facebook group Friends of the Edith Wolfson Medical Center posted a message looking for an interior designer, and two women who can only be described as angels stepped forward to help us – Irit Ziv and Anat Sabo. They spent a lot of time mocking things up and running ideas by me.” Tsiporet Eisenberg-Yagil of the Tsiporet Tikshoret PR firm handled the promotion and social media surrounding the project. Bogen says the remodeled room was in use even before officially opening, due to the COVID crisis, and the reaction has been overwhelming.
“I saw this project as an opportunity to alleviate the suffering of people in need of care,” says Wolfson Medical Center chief administrative officer Yaniv Fogel, “and when I saw Judy’s determination, I realized that this was an opportunity to make their lives a little better.” Fogel says the staff appreciates this “opportunity to carry out their work in an environment which is much more pleasant.” Staff members, patients and caregivers accompanying the patients for treatment “are constantly praising the project and expressing thanks for making it happen,” he adds. “The space is beautiful, calming and more comfortable for all.” Many of the 25 to 30 oncology patients visiting the treatment center on an average day are older residents of Bat Yam, Holon, south Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion and surrounding areas. Among them are Holocaust survivors and new immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
“They tell me, ‘We get wonderful treatment and wonderful nurses, and now a beautiful room.’ They feel overwhelmed and grateful for everything we have done,” Bogen reports.
Now her goal is to raise enough funds to refurbish the rest of the unit, which includes another four treatment rooms, a kitchen, nurses’ station and medications room.
“Much of the first project was funded by donations and fundraising events both here, in Ra’anana, in London and the United States,” the British-born Bogen explains.
“Never underestimate the power of small money. We’re not looking to build a $50 million hospital tower. We can do the Wolfson oncology day treatment center on a modular basis, room by room.” Looking beyond Wolfson Medical Center, Bogen sees much more to be done by Place2Heal.
“According to recent figures, there are 27 cancer centers in Israel, and many thousands more people diagnosed every year,” she relates. “I have taken this mission upon myself and will continue to work tirelessly to improve the conditions of oncology day care in the State of Israel.” Bogen views the environment as a canvas.
“With the help of color, light, sounds and various elements of nature, we can create a completely different reality and turn a depressing and neglected environment into a healing space, bringing respite and relaxation to the eye and the soul of the patient who, ultimately, is our top priority.”