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New Children’s Hospital in Israel to Serve As Bridge to Arab World

Israeli children in need of heart-lung transplants will no longer have to travel abroad to undergo this complex operation. A state-of-the-art children’s medical facility opened this week alongside the large Beilinson Medical Center in Petach Tikvah.

In addition to having the latest technical equipment and medical advances, the hospital is intended to serve as a “bridge of peace” between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Although the facility is not yet fully operational, it has already admitted children from Arab countries for treatment.

The facility is a teaching medical center affiliated with the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and conducts research together with the Felsenstein Research Medical Center, next door, and the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

The Children’s Medical Center of Israel was officially dedicated at a ceremony Tuesday, attended by former President Ephraim Katzir, who is a biochemist by profession, and leaders of the medical profession from around the country.

Much of its $60 million cost came from Jewish contributors abroad, foremost among them philanthropists Irving and Helen Schneider of New York. The hospital’s director is Dr. Yehuda Danon, a former chief medical officer of the Israel Defense Force.

The medical center will serve children from throughout Israel requiring specialized or advanced treatment. Its departments include a pediatric emergency ward, pediatric intensive care unit, specialized imaging equipment and a pediatric cardiac surgical theater.

In one ward which is already operational, a 13-year-old patient told reporters touring the facility: “I’ve been in and out of hospitals ever since I can remember. But this hospital is different: the care and affection given to us, not only as patients but also as children, makes all the difference.”

A 10-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, in Israel barely two months, beamed at reporters as her mother explained in broken Hebrew that she had been desperately sick in Ethiopia but now seemed on the way to recovery.

The center intends to place special emphasis on adolescent medicine, according to its deputy director, Dr. Eliahu Vilensky. Among the particular medical problems encountered in this age group he listed drug addiction, alcohol dependency, pregnancy and eating disorders.

Another specialization of the new facility will be children’s cancer. The center contains Israel’s only pediatric oncology department, providing bone- marrow and organ transplants.

The new facility will also provide unique psychological support services, for families as well as the patients.

A large team of psychologists are on hand to help patients before and after traumatic treatments, and to ease their return to normal life after a period of hospitalization.

The seven-floor, ultramodern building houses 224 beds, 60 percent of them for day patients and emergencies, and the remainder for longer-term patients.

Vilensky stressed that the hospital’s basic approach is to disrupt the young patient’s daily routine as little as possible. Doctors therefore try, wherever possible, to admit the patients on a day-care basis.

In addition, parents are welcome to stay overnight in hospital guest rooms or sleep next to their children in the wards.

The medical center also has classrooms and individual study programs for children forced to miss school for long periods.

For younger children, there are well-stocked game corners in every department of the Child Life program, developed in the United States for pediatric hospitals. Many of the games involve medical instruments in order to comfortably prepare the children for what they will encounter during treatment. The personnel who will staff these game corners were specially trained in the United States.

The hospital’s interior is brightly colored. Departments are designated by color code and decorated in shades of that color or matching colors, from the walls to the linen.

The nurses’ rooms are built of glass to enable immediate communication with the patients. And the patients are free to ride up and down in the glass elevators for their amusement. Patients can wear their own clothes if they prefer. But the hospital pajamas are as cheerful as the decor.

Danon, the hospital director, said, “A child is not just a small adult. The way a child experiences disease or injury is very different from the way we adults do. The sick child has distinct physiological, psychological and social requirements and a unique inner world.”

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