Leading a COVID-19-Free Hospital — a Vision Beyond the Virus at Hadassah

July 2, 2020

Leading a COVID-19-Free Hospital — a Vision Beyond the Virus at Hadassah

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Tamar Elram, director of Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, has been in the very unusual situation of running a large hospital that does not have to provide medical care for COVID-19 patients. The Hadassah Medical Organization administration had made the decision in early March to dedicate a whole building (the Round Building) at the Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem campus to COVID-19 patients, thereby leaving the entire Mount Scopus hospital campus and the rest of the Hadassah Ein Kerem campus free to treat patients with regular illnesses without fear of infection from the coronavirus.

That does not mean, however, that all the patients who come to Hadassah Mount Scopus’ Emergency Room (ER) are free of the virus. But, thanks to a recent 18-month renovation and expansion, the ER is divided into two parallel sections, one for regular patients needing emergency care, and one for patients who are suspected of having COVID-19. The latter are tested and, if positive for COVID-19, are immediately transferred to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Round Building for treatment.

During a June 24 webinar, hosted by Hadassah International, Dr. Elram explained that one of the essential elements a hospital has to plan for during this pandemic is the flow of patients. To ensure that those who are suspected of having COVID-19 do not infect others, a hospital needs a separate entrance to the ER and a separate bay for ambulances carrying potential COVID-19 patients, so that regular patients and the staff caring for them do not have to pass through an area that might be contaminated by COVID-19. This includes elevators, bathrooms, and showers.

Applauding her outstanding leadership team, Dr. Elram noted that her staff are trained in emergency management and have shown incredible initiative in thinking out of the box and in making crucial decisions in a time of uncertainty. Quick decision making is essential, she said, such as in deciding who to test for COVID-19, including the people who accompany the patient to the hospital. This is vital to keeping a hospital free of the virus.

Another very important Hadassah innovation is the testing of every staff member for COVID-19 on a regular basis, even if they are asymptomatic. That way Hadassah personnel can be sure they are not infecting others. The testing policy has led to a very high morale among the staff, and the policy has become a role model for other medical institutions in Israel, who have now followed suit.

Dr. Elram brought out that, during the pandemic, many people with regular medical problems have been afraid to go to any hospital for fear of being exposed to the coronavirus. In addition, Israel’s Ministry of Health instructed all hospitals to stop doing elective procedures, with “elective” defined as any procedure that is not an emergency, including things like ultrasound tests for pregnant women.

Because Hadassah Mount Scopus is COVID-19 free, and patients can come and go without fear of contracting the virus, Hadassah’s leadership decided to perform elective procedures there. But, Dr. Elram related, the public is still anxious about coming to a hospital during the pandemic, so the hospital’s overall number of patients is still lower than usual.

The patients of Hadassah Mount Scopus’ Center for Children with Chronic Diseases, however, continue to come for their regular treatments. The Center is renowned for its compassionate, integrated care, and the parents trust Hadassah to make sure that their children are safe at all times.

Asked about her vision for Hadassah Mount Scopus beyond COVID-19, Dr. Elram noted that the pandemic has afforded her some unexpected opportunities. With the reduction in the number of patients seeking care at Hadassah, she has been able to move forward with her “list of future projects.” As she explained, although the original Hadassah Mount Scopus is an old historic building, and improvements and renovation must take place without changing the exterior, there is available land on the campus for additional buildings. Dr. Elram is taking advantage of this. A perfect example is the new Rehabilitation Center, now under construction.

Despite the pandemic, Hadassah Mount Scopus continues to grow and to provide the best possible cutting edge and compassionate medicine to the residents of Jerusalem and beyond.

The webinar is part of the Hadassah International Summer Summit 2020 “Health Talks with Hadassah Experts.”