Despite everything, Hadassah’s Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department is world-class

A response and apology to Ben Shaffer

A HALLWAY is seen at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A HALLWAY is seen at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Ben Shaffer’s son was hospitalized in the Department of Pediatric Hemato- Oncology at Hadassah-University Medical Center from January 27 to 30, a Shabbat to Tuesday.
The reason for the hospitalization was fever and neutropenia (low white blood cell count). The condition is known among patients who receive chemotherapy. Roi was diagnosed and properly treated, and was discharged following a three-day hospitalization.
The Shaffer family left this short hospitalization, unsatisfied, with their main complaint being: “... we struggled to see just one of them [pediatric hemato-oncology specialists – Z.R.] in the first 24 hours [Shabbat – Z.R.] of being there, and only achieved that by insisting many times. Every day, our son was examined by a pediatrician rather than an oncologist.”
I feel an obligation to apologize to the Shaffer family, that Hadassah was unable to meet its expectations. The family left the hospitalization dissatisfied. Their complaint needed to be investigated, so that other parents do not undergo the same experience.
I took it upon myself to personally investigate what upset the family. After apologizing and promising the Shaffers we would apply the lessons learned, I must also relate to a number of facts.
1. There are no specialists in the hospital on Shabbat, except in anomalous situations.
Treatment is provided by “on-duty” physicians (“toranim”), as is the case in all Israeli hospitals.
2. I must clearly emphasize that Roi’s hospitalization and/or his medical condition during hospitalization did not require any expertise in brain cancer. As Ben Shaffer correctly stated, the child was hospitalized due to a fever and low white blood cell count, a common and widespread condition that was successfully treated.
3. I personally spoke with department head Dr. Gal Goldstein regarding Ben Shaffer’s complaint. It is important to understand who Dr. Gal Goldstein is. Gal is a firstclass specialist in pediatric hemato-oncology.
However, he is a quiet, shy, unassuming physician. He looks very young for his age, dresses in an annoyingly simple fashion and is a man of very few words.
He shyly told me that he knows Roi. He personally examined him and spoke with his mother twice during the hospitalization.
I crossed referenced what Gal said with the medical record that I have attached to this letter, and I did indeed find the medical examination results and Gal’s electronic signature on the chart on Monday, January 29. This is in addition to the routine visit made by the rotating pediatrician in the department on January 28. I would also like to point out that every child’s case is presented in the daily clinical discussions that take place between the department’s senior physicians and nurses, in the seminar room.
I WHOLE-HEARTEDLY believe the parents, but I also whole-heartedly trust Gal. How do we bridge between the two versions? I am afraid that, due to his modesty and shyness, Gal “sinned” by not introducing himself to the parents as department head in an assertive manner. I also believe that, during the hospitalization, the parents were no doubt anxious due to all of the slanderous press during the crisis that in essence claimed: “There is no Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department at Hadassah.”
I must also point out the lack of originality between Yaakov Katz’s article and Ben Shaffer’s response, both in The Jerusalem Post.
Katz’s article last month describes how the department is ignored by the Jerusalem public. “I asked dozens of people, including doctors and employees at Hadassah, almost all of whom warned me to stay away.”
Paradoxically, but interestingly, Katz’s daughter was referred to Sheba Medical Center with a specific disease. Until a year and a half ago, the specialist at Sheba for this particular disease was none other than Dr. Gal Goldstein. Today he is head of the Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department at Hadassah.
Yaakov’s daughter was superbly treated by the doctors who replaced Goldstein. I am very proud of all of the specialists at Sheba who wear crowns of excellence. The Department of Hemato-Oncology at Sheba was the “apple of my eye” during all of my management years at Sheba; I cultivated the department in every way, and today, the patients and their families testify to the quality of care, the remarkable treatment and the successes of saving the lives of hundreds of children. It is indeed very moving. We saw this at Hadassah when this group of angels immediately mobilized to help on June 4, 2017, when “Miki’s group” – a reference to the former head of the department Miki Weintraub – abandoned the department at Hadassah and the children within.
IN THE half year since “Miki’s doctors” abandoned the children – while they were attached to infusions – the department at Hadassah did not shut down for even an hour! I had the misfortune to face the great challenge, to dig us out of the crisis created by the desertion, and recruited reinforcement angels from Sheba, and later on more star doctors and nurses, so that the department would indeed be world-class.
The Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation is filled with patients. It would be sufficient if we were to count the number of innovative articles that have been published by the bone marrow transplantation team – 17 original articles in 2017 alone – which reflect the existence of original research, innovation and real advancement of medicine in Israel. It would be sufficient if we were to count the number of pediatric bone marrow transplantations – a total of 53 in 2017, an all-time record at Hadassah.
These are the most sophisticated and complex transplantations, with a lower mortality rate than at leading transplantation centers across the world. It would be sufficient to survey the international collaborations and comings to Hadassah of the world’s finest hemato-oncologists and the clinical and research partnerships, that they bring with them, in order to conclude that the department is indeed a world-class one.
So, enough of excluding Hadassah’s Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department and its doctors, and enough of hurting the young patients and their families who are erroneously referred to the center of the country and who falsely and untruthfully claim that there is no department in Jerusalem.
The writer is the director-general of Hadassah Medical Organization.