Tag: Israeli

 

Israeli Charity Treats Ultra-Orthodox Virus Patients at Home

JERUSALEM — When the elderly father of an ultra-Orthodox radio personality in Israel contracted the coronavirus recently, his family dreaded the prospect of his entering an isolated hospital ward and possibly never coming out.

So the broadcaster made a round of calls that turned up an alternative.

A small charity was offering an under-the-radar service treating mostly ultra-Orthodox and older Covid-19 patients in their homes, even in severe cases where health experts say it could endanger lives. Drawing on the services of a few doctors — and dozens of volunteers, most without medical training — it was operating out of a basement in Mea Shearim, a Jerusalem stronghold of the most extreme anti-Zionist Jewish sects that shun cooperation with the state.

Hundreds had already turned to the charity for care out of a sense that remaining with family — and avoiding public hospitals — outweighed the risks. But the project was also tinged with a general distrust of government among the ultra-Orthodox community, which appears to be increasingly going it alone in handling the pandemic and many other aspects of daily life.

Since the home-care initiative was reported by Israel’s N12 news service this week, health officials and experts have responded with a mix of condemnation and curiosity. One leading epidemiologist was among those who said the approach could help ease the burden on hospitals.

Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price, a senior Health Ministry official, denounced the operation as a “dangerous” departure and said the ministry was looking into the legality of some aspects of it.

Dr. Ran Balicer, an Israeli health care official who advises the government on the pandemic, called the charity “a gamble.” A coronavirus patient’s condition can deteriorate rapidly, he said, adding it was “hard to predict a moment of no return for people who might have survived had they reached the hospital in time.”

But Dr. Gabriel Barbash, a leading Israeli professor of epidemiology, is among those who view the charity’s approach as a possible way to ease the load on hospitals and worthy of further study. Other advocates insist that even in severe cases, a calm home environment can aid recovery.

Yitzhak Markovitz, a member of a small Hasidic sect, started the at-home care service about six months ago through his charity, Hasdei Amram. He said his patients generally avoided taking government Covid-19 tests to evade official attention and pressure