Originally published by the Australian Jewish News 23rd April 2020

A global initiative by Hadassah Australia – aimed at sharing information about COVID-19 – has seen more than 300 emergency medicine personnel meet online to discuss the evolving pandemic.

The purpose of the webinar was to hear how Israeli hospitals are responding to the coronavirus crisis and what findings Australian researchers and medical specialists can implement locally.

Hadassah Australia chair Ron Finkel (first left in second row) conferring with health professionals during the international online hookup.

Israel reported cases earlier than Australia and was dealing with patients in intensive care before any were admitted here. Key backers of the webinar, held earlier this month, included the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM), the Israeli Association of Emergency Medicine and Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Convened at short notice, participants came from Italy, Spain, Romania and New Zealand, as well as Australia and Israel. In all there were representatives from 13 countries.

Hadassah Australia chair Ron Finkel said Australia and Israel have worked closely for well over a decade in emergency medicine.

“The similarities between our two health systems are striking. We felt it would benefit Australian medical staff to hear how Israeli hospitals have geared themselves to this expanding crisis and to use the information for best practice here.”

Among the participants was Dr George Braitberg, executive director, Strategy, Quality and Improvement, at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and a fellow of ACEM.

Braitberg, who moderated the session, said it was important for Australians involved in emergency medicine to understand how Israeli hospitals had organised their response. Also among participants were representatives of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Sheba Medical Centre in Ramat Gan, and Rabin Medical Centre in Petach Tikvah.

“It has become increasingly clear to us that Australia won’t hit the peaks that have affected Europe and the United States,”Braitberg said.

'Our adherence to social distancing and the decision to close the borders, among other initiatives, have been highly successful in protecting the population. To that extent, the response of the Australian and Israeli governments has been strikingly similar.”

Braitberg said the Israelis were asked to explain how they set up their emergency departments, the issues they faced around the use and availability of personal protection equipment, and the provision of ventilation to extremely ill patients.

Comparisons were made with the Australian setting, which the participants agreed was valuable in developing a localised response. As a result of the webinar’s success, future events are planned.

Over 300 emergency medicine personnel met online from 13 different countries to discuss the evolving pandemic.