Two senior ICU nurses from Hadassah Hospital have been helping healthcare workers in Gaza after a desperate plea from Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

Naela Hayak and Julie Benbenishty PhD from Hadassah are founding members of Nurses from the Middle East.

Julie Benbenishty working with Gazan counterparts to help improve health conditions in Gaza.

The spiralling infection and death rate in Gaza and the desperate need to train ICU medical personnel, prompted the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Gaza in December last year to issue an urgent request to Project Rozana, an Australian-headquartered NGO.

Project Rozana has worked closely with Hadassah Hospital since its founding in 2013.

The call was issued by Dr Abdullatif Alhaj, Director General, International Cooperation with Gaza’s Ministry of Health.  He arranged for Mohammed Alhaj, chief nurse at the European Gaza Hospital (EGH), to liaise with Project Rozana staff in Israel.

EGH is the largest COVID hospital in the enclave.

Project Rozana arranged for Naela and Julie to work with their Gazan counterparts to deal with the issues raised by the Ministry of Health.

The goal was to enhance the knowledge, skills, and best practices of Gazan healthcare professionals dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Palestinian health system’s capacity to cope with the drastic increase in cases remains severely affected by longstanding health system challenges and critical shortages in infrastructure and human resources,” said Ron Finkel AM, Chair of Hadassah Australia.

“The pandemic has posed a huge challenge for healthcare providers who need additional knowledge and skills to respond effectively.

”We are thrilled that Naela and Julie representing Nurses from the Middle East were able to arrange for the personnel to get involved.”

A meeting was held on January 5, 2021 to identify the needs and gaps in training and capacity for the COVID-19 crisis in Gaza. Mohammad Alhaj was joined by 20 nurses from EGH, while Naela and Julie were joined by senior medical personnel from Hadassah.

Given the circumstances, it was agreed that the online sessions would be run along the lines of ‘Train the Trainer’.  Senior nurses with ICU and COVID-19 experience would then be able to train junior nurses in the hospital.  This would continue the ‘trickle-down effect’ for nurses throughout the MOH in Gaza.

The following modules informed the sessions held throughout January and February this year:

  1. Protection from COVID-19 for nurses in ICU
  2. Types of Oxygen Therapy uses in ICU ADVANCED MODES OF VENTILATION
  3. Advanced modes of ventilation
  4. Nitrus Oxide and ECMO for COVID-19 management
  5. Hemodilution
  6. Patient monitoring (Hemodynamic and Respiratory) in the ICU
  7. Case Studies
  8. Simulations

The Executive Director of Hadassah Australia, Ruth Ramone Rosen, said that while the reality of COVID and the geopolitical pressures in the region prevented face-to-face training, “the relationships of mutual respect, trust and support being built will provide a solid platform for expanding this initiative in the future.”