'Let's go to Terem'

New urgent care facility sees 15% more patients since its April 9 move.

terem 224 88 (photo credit: Judy Siegel)
terem 224 88
(photo credit: Judy Siegel)
The first thing that comes to the mind of most Jerusalem families when a member breaks a bone, sprains a muscle, develops a sudden high fever, is short of breath or has another worrisome but not fatal malady - especially when their health fund clinic is closed - is: "Let's go to Terem." But since the second week of April, instead of heading for the Terem (Urgent Medical Care) clinic at the Magen David Adom station in Romema, where it was located for 19 years, they have been reporting to its new facility less than 150 m. away. The new Terem is located in the round-faced Beit Yahav building at 80 Rehov Yirmiyahu. The faces of the doctors, nurses and technicians are the same (although there are more of them now), but the extra space and comfortable facilities make it even more pleasant for them to offer urgent medical care around the clock. Terem was founded by the renowned urgent care specialist Dr. David Applebaum - murdered with his daughter in a Cafe Hillel suicide bombing in 2003 - as a private business to diagnose and treat patients with acute conditions. By providing an alternative to hospital emergency room visits, Terem has relieved hospitals of tens of thousands of patients. The new facility in Romema is the most advanced of Terem's urgent care clinics, the rest of which are located in Arnona, Ma'aleh Adumim, Beit Shemesh and Modi'in. The new facility has a formal triage room, 17 treatment rooms, a spacious waiting room with three LCD screens listing medical information and waiting time, a play corner with padded equipment that is regularly wiped down with alcohol, special treatment rooms for children, an advanced lab, observation rooms, lower radiation X-ray machines (with dressing rooms), defibrillators, ultrasound machines and even a kiosk. "We should have moved five years ago," says deputy director Dr. Nahum Kovalski, a Canadian-born urological surgeon who has been with Terem almost from the beginning. "There is nothing like this in Israel. It isn't fair that David [Applebaum] didn't live to see it, as all the principles are his. The floor became available when the bankrupt Heftsiba construction company evacuated its offices." The old Romema clinic treated 100,000 people last year. The new clinic expects to increase that figure by about 9 percent in 2008. Since the April 9 move - which ended with unplugging the computer server in the middle of the night, running across the street and replugging it at Beit Yahav - the number of patients has increased by about 15% and even more on holidays. On Saturday nights, there are as many as 180 patients. During Shabbat, the facility is manned by non-Jewish staffers, but Djemal and Kovalski (both modern Orthodox) receive urgent queries and even X-rays from staffers via special cellphones when needed. "We are definitely seeing many more people with chest pains, shortness of breath and complicated infections - not just colds and coughs - who prefer going to us than to hospital emergency rooms," says Kovalski. Only about 6.7% of Terem patients were referred to emergency rooms this year, compared to 6.9% last year, because the clinic's trained specialists and advanced equipment are able to do the job at a much lower cost. Terem has arrangements with all the health funds, which significantly subsidizes treatments during off hours. The hospital emergency rooms, he says, "are always full, but they clearly are seeing many fewer routine cases. The time will come when medical students will have to come here to see them. "At any time, there is a wide variety of medical problems. In the old clinic, we even had a few deliveries a year of babies whose mothers didn't make it to the hospital on time - cab drivers brought them to us."