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April 5, 2020 9:15 pm

Top Israeli Hospital Now Allowing Families to Visit Dying Coronavirus Patients, Encourages Other Facilities to Follow Suit

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center. Photo: Alex Jilitsky via Wikicommons.

One of Israel’s largest hospitals has begun to allow close family members to be at the bedside of dying coronavirus patients and is hoping others around the world will begin to follow suit.

“Stories of patients who died alone shocked me as a human and as a [hospital] director,” said Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital). “We at Ichilov have formulated guidelines, effective immediately, which will allow family members, wearing full protective gear supplied by the hospital, to say farewell to their loved ones. This is our moral duty as medical staff and as human beings. I believe that the rest of the world will follow our example, as it should.”

Ichilov is the first hospital in the world to allow families of dying COVID-19 patients to bid farewell to their loved ones in person, the medical center said.

Israel had its 47th coronavirus death on Sunday with a confirmed total of 8,018 COVID-19 cases. 127 patients are currently in critical condition, according to local health officials.

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Due to strict protocols in place to prevent the spread of the virus, many coronavirus patients are dying, either at home or in hospitals, without any loved ones by their side. Dr. Kamini Doobay, an emergency medicine physician at New York University Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, told NBC News, “Too many people are dying alone with absolutely no family around them. This is one of the most horrific things.”

She added, “So often a patient will be on their deathbed, dying alone, and it’s been incredibly painful to see the suffering of family members who I call from the ICU, hearing the tears, crying with them on the phone … I’ve never felt so physically and emotionally burdened in my life, I’ve never felt so deeply sad and distraught.”

Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center announced on April 2 that it would allow one visitor to be at the bedside of a patient in their final days “in accordance with the directives to prevent the spread of the disease,” meaning if they agreed to wear protective gear, Haaretz reported. The hospital also said video calls would be available for those who cannot get to the hospital.

Officials at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center said they are reconsidering the ban on visiting COVID-19 patients following Ichilov’s announcement. Israel’s largest hospital, Tel HaShomer,  put up a “family tent” with computers that family members can use to communicate with patients and receive updates from the medical team, according to Haaretz.

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