Testing, Testing, Testing—Hadassah Gears Up to Fight Coronavirus

Thursday, Mar 19 2020

As one of the few hospitals in Israel tasked by the Ministry of Health with caring for victims of the coronavirus, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem is in the forefront of the battle to fight the highly contagious and dangerous disease.

In a letter outlining actions being taken to increase testing for the virus, Hadassah Medical Organization Director General Zeev Rotstein stated flatly, “The State of Israel is at war with coronavirus. There’s a national state of emergency in which there’s a huge threat to life, the economy, and our society.”

Using the example of South Korea, where early and widespread testing reduced the extent of the disaster, Prof. Rotstein and his colleagues in the other designated hospitals are working to immediately ramp up the number of tests administered in Israel. To that end they have already taken the following bold steps:

  • More than 1,200 medical students, recruited from five universities, have been trained by Magen David Adom to assist in screening and testing.
  • Laboratories in hospitals, universities, and research institutions have been enlisted to perform PCR tests, which reveal the presence of the virus’s RNA, and/or to equip themselves with robotic sequencers, which make mass testing possible. Approval has been fast-tracked by the Ministry of Health.
  • More than 600 doctoral students were recruited from the natural sciences to help with testing in shifts around the clock.
  • Private companies have agreed to quickly transport the test samples to laboratories.
  • Tens of thousands of additional test kits have been purchased by the Ministry of Health, though a substantial shortfall of test kits remains.

To date, about two dozen patients have been treated in the Outbreak Ward at Hadassah Ein Kerem. The ward, dedicated to treating coronavirus patients, is housed in the Round Building, currently under renovation. The ward is isolated from other parts of the hospital and closed to all but medical personnel.

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