There are a number of industries that have ‘enjoyed’ substantial growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Foremost among them is the healthcare system.

This is not an outcome to celebrate, but a reality check that has, ironically, brought many hospitals to their knees, but not Hadassah.  

This is the challenge facing Prof Yoram Weiss, the newly-appointed Acting Director-General of Hadassah Medical Organisation.

Prof Weiss has experienced much of Israel during this working life.  He lives in Tel Aviv and completed his medical studies in Haifa, before landing in Jerusalem more than 31 years ago.  It was here that he joined a hospital on whose shoulders many of Israel’s great medical centres sit.

By his own admission he has witnessed the best and worst of life in this ancient city, home to the world’s great monotheistic religions and one that is demographically diverse and socially conflicted.

It is a city that has, in many ways, shaped him just as he will shape the hospital that he believes has no peer in the region.

“Hadassah is a public not-for-profit organisation whose history bears witness to its role of helping humanity,”

he says proudly.

“Even in the darkest days of the Intifada, it resisted the turmoil by staying true to its purpose as a bubble of peace.  Our doors were open to everyone without question.  What we saw was a way forward, to see that peace and coexistence are possible, no matter how strained relations are.”

 Hadassah’s claim to being ‘more than a hospital’ is something that Prof Weiss endorses unequivocally.

 “Hadassah is the backbone of Jerusalem’s biotech industry,” he says.  “It is attracting young people to live and work in Jerusalem, and this will also shape Jerusalem as a city and as a technological hub into the future.

“It will have a long-lasting effect on how international communities view Jerusalem and Israel.” 

The ever-present pandemic

Throughout the growing COVID-19 crisis, Hadassah has met the pandemic head-on.    The multi-campus tertiary hospital has mobilised its human, research and financial resources for the betterment of Israelis and Palestinians and, indeed, the world.

Prof Weiss says it has a proud tradition as one of the leading research, clinical and educational centres of its kind anywhere.

Rather than allow Hadassah to rest on its laurels, Prof Weiss is determined to further build the hospital’s prestige and the Israel ‘brand’ as a giant in healthcare. 

He points to Hadassah’s engagement with Russia and Mexico.  They may seem like odd bedfellows, but these countries are hungry for clinical and research excellence and acknowledge Hadassah’s supremacy in both. 

“We have identified important institutions in each country and we took the decision to share knowledge as part of a joint enterprise that operates under the Hadassah name,” he said.

“Physicians from Hadassah regularly travel to Hadassah Skolkovo, Moscow to consult.  Where that has been difficult, consultations are done via telehealth.”

Israel remains the focus of Hadassah’s current and future growth. 

Prof Weiss said that in addition to its world-first campuses at Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus, it is planning an extension campus in Beit Shemesh.  Located southwest of Jerusalem, the city has a current population of 130,000 that is anticipated to grow to around 350,000 by 2035. 

It should be fully operational by the end of 2023.

Although limited initially in the range of clinical services offered, it will provide local residents with an emergency centre, specialist and outpatient surgery clinics, daycare hospitalization clinics, including oncology, as well as imaging and dialysis units.  

Hadassah is also in the process of extending its oncology and haematology services which are located at the Ein Kerem campus 

Significantly, Newsweek described Hadassah as being among the best cancer and cardiology services in the world.  It wasn’t the only Israeli hospital to make the list.  This is an enviable collaboration that many countries would love to emulate.

The Newsweek rating coincides with the Israeli Ministry of Health naming Hadassah (both Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus) one of Israel's two leading medical centres meeting quality indicators. 

Although newly-minted in the executive director role, Prof Weiss has a very clear picture of where he wants to position Hadassah as it moves forward. 

He points to three areas that will cement its reputation.

1. The new rehabilitation centre at Hadassah Mount Scopus will be a game-changer for Israel. It is slated to become fully operational in 2023. Alongside its purpose of providing for the medical and therapeutic needs of the local population, it will also contribute to building bridges to peace by actively engaging with Christians, Jews, Muslims and the Druze community.   This is in keeping with its ethos of being relevant to and embracing of all the peoples of the region.

2. Its aggressive fight against COVID-19 has been noted internationally, as part of the broader campaign waged by Israel. But Hadassah, one of the country's, most successful hospital-based research centre in the country and its work with COVID-19 and diseases more generally will continue without pause.  Even though Israel has largely tamed the virus, Prof Weiss notes that new strains, such as of the Delta variant are always a possibility and it must be open to that.

3. The pandemic shed a light on the critically important role of nursing support. Israel is below the OECD average in nursing numbers, but Hadassah (and Hadassah Australia) is working assiduously to address the gap through programs that include the Hadassah-Achotenu Ethiopian Scholarships in Health.  Prof Weiss says Hadassah is better placed than any other hospital of similar size in Israel with ICU and critical care nurses and physicians, as well as dedicated beds.

“Hadassah continues to strive to be a tertiary community hospital for the Jerusalem region,”

Prof Weiss says.  “At the same time it is a worldwide leading institute for integrative immunomodulatory treatments: precision medicine, nanotechnology and cell therapy, excelling in clinical treatment, research and medical education.

“I feel privileged to be tasked with leading a formidable hospital for the benefit of the people of Jerusalem and beyond; an institution that is a beacon of light, hope and purpose.”

 

Prof Yoram Weiss was previously Director of Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem (2014 – 2021).  He received his medical degree from the Technion in Haifa, later training in anaesthesiology and critical care medicine at Hadassah and the University of Pennsylvania.  He held two faculty appointments – Associate Professor at the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Medicine, and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  He was twice awarded the prestigious Israel Science Foundation research grant and received the European Critical Care Research Network Basic Science Award from the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine.