Health official urges hospitals to use recovered volunteers at COVID wards

“I call on hospitals to willingly use this resource of volunteers who have recovered from the coronavirus."

Ichilov Medical team at the coronavirus unit, in the Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, Israel, July 28, 2020. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Ichilov Medical team at the coronavirus unit, in the Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, Israel, July 28, 2020.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
 A senior official at the Health Ministry wrote a letter earlier this month to hospital directors around the country, urging them to implement volunteer programs using recovered coronavirus patients to work on coronavirus wards, based on the program created at the Hadassah-University Medical Center’s Ein Kerem campus.
The Health Ministry released the August 2 letter from Dr. Vered Ezra, head of the Medical Division of the Health Ministry, to the press on Tuesday. It was also sent to the senior staff of the MOH.

“I call on hospitals to willingly use this resource of volunteers who have recovered from the coronavirus,” she wrote. 
In early July, Hadassah became the first hospital in the world known to use recovered coronavirus patients to provide humanitarian support for those currently infected with the virus.
These approximately 30 volunteers were organized at first by the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) nonprofit Yad Avraham, and now also by the organization Ezer Mizion, to visit patients in moderate or serious condition who would otherwise be in isolation, the hospital explained. They provide companionship and bring cell phones which patients can use to contact friends and family. Most coronavirus patients are not allowed to have visitors to prevent the spread of the virus. 
A spokesperson from Hadassah said in a statement, “From experience and in light of Dr. Ezra's letter, I strongly recommend that hospitals adopt the Hadassah volunteer model that arouses interest in hospitals around the world.”
Prof. Zeev Rotstein, head of Hadassah, said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post in July that the hospital saw during the first wave of the coronavirus how challenging it was for patients in isolation to cope and that the companionship that the volunteers offer was especially critical for elderly patients with no family. The volunteers all had coronavirus more than a month ago and after their recovery tested negative for the virus but positive for antibodies, meaning they are likely to be immune to becoming reinfected. In many cases, these are the same volunteers that donated plasma through Hadassah, which is being used to treat critically ill patients.
Volunteers enter the rooms with full personal protective suits and are informed of the dangers and must give informed consent. Hadassah said it would test the program for two months to determine its effectiveness. The hospital said that if the pilot program was successful, it hoped to recruit and train additional volunteers who could serve at other hospitals throughout the country