If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that hospitals are more than bricks and mortar.  They’re even more than their advanced, life-saving equipment.  

The truly great hospitals are staffed by people who rise to meet challenges that hospitals in developed countries rarely if ever face.

Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem is not only a case in point, but the gold standard.

From 1913, the Hadassah model was introduced to Palestine.  It was based on providing medical support in the community where it was needed most.  Wherever people lived in Palestine, Hadassah nurses worked among them – or in close proximity – providing westernised medicine that was hitherto unknown in the region.

The importance of that was not only in the medical advancements that it offered, but the ability to fit that approach into unique settings. 

In 1918, Hadassah together with other organisations formed the American Zionist Medical Unit, comprising 45 doctors, nurses, dentists and sanitary workers.  The group sailed for Palestine bringing desperately needed drugs, medical instruments and supplies.

They established Hadassah hospitals in Jaffa, Tiberias, Safed and Jerusalem.  

Palestine was a world away, literally, from Henrietta Szold and Hadassah’s America.  It was dominated by swamps in the north and deserts in the south.  Sanitation was all but non-existent in many smaller and outlying communities (Tel Aviv was barely four years old).  So the nurses had to use their skills learned in conventional settings and mould them to each new and unfamiliar experience.

Today, the same spirit of outreach continues.  Not only is Hadassah working from two world-class tertiary hospitals in Jerusalem – at Ein Kerem and Mt Scopus - but that same spirit inspires and impacts the coalface of community healthcare.  Indeed, this is the footprint of Hadassah, the spirit of the programs that we at Hadassah Australia support.

A good example is the impact that our program, Goshen, is having on Israel’s system of paediatric care. Taking a holistic view of the parent-child relationship and working through community healthcare centres, paediatricians and child health practitioners, it has shifted the focus away from organic disease in children to deal with developmental, behavioural and psychosocial disorders.

This is important not only for the family, but for society which has to bear the burden of children and families in distress.  Goshen is helping to reduce societal problems and its implications and has an economic benefit as well.

Hadassah is also committed to providing patient-centred healthcare and  is also the leader in medical research in Israel.   It carries out more than fifty percent of all hospital-based research and receives more than fifty percent of Israel’s medical research budget.  Many of its researchers are doctors who are encouraged to move from the bedside to the laboratory.

Hadassah is also a trailblazer in providing psychotherapeutic support to children and young adults.  It does this in two ways, The first is the Jerusalem Crisis Intervention Center, and the second is the Binational School of Psychotherapy which is a unique advanced training centre for Israeli and Palestinian child psychologists.

Many of you will be aware that Hadassah champions a program called Achotenu, created to provide a pathway for young, motivated Ethiopians to enter the healthcare professions.  Not only does the program address the difficulties that this community faces in navigating university entry to a degree in nursing and occupational therapy, but it is changing the status and acceptance of the wider Ethiopian community in Israel. Not to mention providing more desperately needed health professionals to Israel’s hospitals.

We are indebted to you for your financial support, particularly at this most difficult time.   Rest assured that your donations are making an impact on the lives of Israelis.  You are powering an organisation that has been part of this region for more than 100 years; an organisation that is respected by Israelis of all denominations and social standing, an organisation whose values are an inspiration to us all.  

Ron Finkel AM

President, Hadassah Australia

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