COVID-19 laid bare a terrible truth that no other public health emergency has ever done.  It revealed how unprepared our health services are, forcing hospitals in every country to close, reduce services or re-purpose wards to meet the unprecedented challenge.

One hospital that is defying the odds is Hadassah.  Its programs that reach into the community heartland have proven to be life-saving, not only for the recipients but for society as a whole.

The difference with Hadassah Hospital is its long-standing commitment to community outreach.  While many of its intra-hospital services were similarly affected, programs aimed at supporting patients and other stakeholders on their turf became lifelines for individuals, families and communities.

It brought into stark relief the reality that Hadassah is more than what we have traditionally understood a hospital to be.

A breathtaking view of Hadassah Ein Kerem from afar.

There are many examples of how Hadassah positioned itself to provide services to Israelis no matter where they live and work.  This shift happened well before the onset of COVID-19.  It was fortuitous that the groundwork had been done before the first case was identified in February 2020. 

I want to focus on three in particular.  Each is very different from the others, but in combination they show how impactful Hadassah has been and continues to be for people in Israel.

The first of these is Goshen, literally a revolution in the way early childhood health is treated (see story this issue).  It elevates the role of the paediatrician and child health practitioners more generally to that of trusted partners. 

Underpinning Goshen is a rejection of the idea that these dedicated health workers should only focus on organic disease.  Instead, it mandates a more holistic view by recognising the pressing need to treat children who present with developmental, behavioural and psychosocial disorders.  These can be everything from faecal incontinence, bedwetting, and sleep problems, to language disorders and developmental delay.  

Hadassah’s role is seminal – leaders and practitioners from the hospital’s paediatrics department were critical in establishing Goshen.  Today Goshen is working throughout Israel, and is particularly helpful to marginalised communities in the north and south of the country, as well as the ultra-Orthodox, Arab-Israeli and Ethiopian communities. 

Central to this outreach is social media.  This has become a major pillar of Goshen’s engagement not only with Israel but with countries throughout the region.  Its Arabic-language website has topped 20,000 hits a month from the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon. 

The second is Hadassah’s decision to adopt ‘Achotenu’ (the Ethiopian Nursing Scholarship program).  This was designed to assist the Ethiopian community achieve one of its dream – to become nurses in their adopted country.

Achotenu provides a pathway for the community into its preferred profession via a one-year preparatory program (Mechina).  This is the first-step to entry into a four-year nursing degree at The Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing.

This is a win-win, because Israel was desperately short of trained nurses even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As with Goshen, Hadassah Australia has been a major force in funding this important initiative (see story Nursing a desire for a degree in OT).   

The third is the creation of the Hadassah Australia Medical Research and Collaborations Foundation (HAMRC).  HAMRC brings medical researchers from Hadassah Hospital and Australia together, to promote the cross-fertilisation of medical knowledge and expertise.

Hadassah’s status as the preeminent hospital research facility in Israel makes it the ideal partner for Australia and the current research collaboration between Dr Alex Combes at Monash University and Dr Oded Volovelsky at Hadassah.  They are working together to find ways to attack Chronic Kidney Disease associated with premature births.  This is a testament to how collaborative research can bring about global cures. (See current research).

The human landscape is changing in ways that were unimaginable before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.  In a world as conflicted as ours, there is an urgency to find answers to intractable medical problems that can too easily overwhelm societies that are ill-equipped to deal with them.

Not only is HAMRC committed to working cooperatively to discover ways to address these problems, (by sharing data, technology, equipment and laboratory resources), it is empowered to bring life-saving treatments to market quicker by fast-tracking the clinical trial process using Israel’s unique clinic trial ecosystem.

For more than a century, Hadassah Hospital has illuminated the world through its commitment to providing best practice to all who need it.

Ron Finkel AM
President, Hadassah Australia