Prof. Jonathan Halevy, the current President of Shaare Zedek Medical Center who previously served as the Director General of Shaare Zedek for over thirty years, has experienced challenging situations during his four decades in the medical community including wars, waves of terrorist attacks, financial crises and infectious disease outbreaks. However, he admits that nothing nears the scope of COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, over 400 coronavirus patients were treated in Shaare Zedek making it the most active medical center for COVID-19 in the Jerusalem area and the second busiest in all of Israel. Over the past two months, Shaare Zedek opened five separate units as well as a dedicated intensive care unit to treat coronavirus patients and treated as many as 120 patients at one time.
Prof. Halevy credits Prof. Ofer Merin, the Director General of Shaare Zedek, for the medical center’ skillful handling of the dynamic and unprecedented situation. Prof. Halevy highlighted Prof. Merin’s experience as the head of the IDF’s mobile field hospital operations and disaster response efforts in many parts of the world and his leadership role in biological disease outbreak simulations in Shaare Zedek. Prof. Halevy explained , “Every increase in patient numbers was anticipated prior to the fact, which enabled us to provide the best possible care when each wave of patients arrived.”
Shaare Zedek is now leveraging its significant experience treating patients infected with COVID-19 and its extensive research capabilities to better understand the disease and potential treatments. Shaare Zedek and the Israel Institute for Biological Research recently partnered to develop a technique for detecting the coronavirus using exhalation sampling. If the researchers are successful in identifying the unique markers for corona, this could lead to the development of a coronavirus test that provides results in a matter of minutes, which would significantly expedite efforts to test large numbers of people.
The coronavirus crisis forced Shaare Zedek to invest massive resources in order to treat coronavirus patients and postpone many procedures which would have provided the hospital with much-needed income. Shaare Zedek has already assigned more than NIS 25 million to its Corona response program (funds that were not included in the hospital’s 2020 budget). Prof. Halevy is very thankful and extremely moved by the generosity of donors of all sizes who have supported the hospital during this especially complex time.
Professor Halevy concluded, “Even while this has been an incredibly costly and painful time for our city, country and indeed our world, I think we all also deserve to take great pride in what we as a community have been able to accomplish. We must learn from this experience to ensure we are that much better prepared for whatever lies ahead.”
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