Regarding “The well-being of Israel’s children is not a priority for the Health Ministry,” June 29: The ethical cloud hovering over the bitter and hastily organized abandonment by six senior Pediatric Hemato-Oncology (PHO) physicians on June 4, 2017, has yet to dissipate. They turned their backs on their innocent, helpless patients and deserted them. The children remained in the department, attached to infusion lines, with no one to provide instructions for drug protocols and treatments.
It is these same physicians who took advantage of the distress of these children and their parents, who were crazed by fear and worry, launching a protest campaign – which from the very beginning was aimed at forcing the government to open a second hemato-oncology department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
In this campaign, everything was permitted. All ethical lines were crossed when children with cancer were used as a tool by their parents and activists, who put them in a tent in the center of the capital, used them in a street demonstration riding in hospital beds, and publicized them in horrible advertisements on buses and in other public places, accusing the health minister of being responsible for the lack of treatment of these children.
It reached the point where I personally was publicly called a murderer, an act that was previously unheard of in Israel – especially to one who has done so much for pediatric cancer care and children with cancer in the Jewish state, being the head of the team at Sheba Medical Center that brought to Israel, for the first time, CAR-T Cell Therapy. This most innovative therapy has saved the lives of more than 50 patients, mostly children with non-responsive cancer, who had no other chance of survival. Additionally, I founded the most advanced pediatric hemato-oncology center at Sheba Medical Center prior to taking upon myself the challenging mission of rebuilding the new Hadassah in Jerusalem.
A YEAR has passed, a year in which everyone rallied together to revitalize and build a new PHO Department. Almost overnight, a force of 12 specialists in pediatric hemato-oncology and bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is running the new Division of Pediatric Hemato-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation. More than 20 nurses were recruited from inside and outside Hadassah, while Hadassah received initial outstanding primary medical back-up from the PHO team at Sheba Medical Center, who volunteered during June 2017 to lend a hand and treat these children with cancers who were left without doctors. Together with several internationally renowned PHO specialists from abroad, who came to Hadassah for several months running, they joined Hadassah until it recruited enough specialists of its own.
Today we are very happy that the PHO Department includes the finest doctors in the country, double the number of physicians who previously worked in the department. All are specialists in PHO and BMT. They have put us on the cutting edge of medicine, implementing quality life-saving treatments using state-of-the-art protocols and sharing their know-how and knowledge with large Ivy League hospitals in the US, including Memorial Sloan Kettering.
The Hadassah PHO Department continues to develop and even expand. Its patient population is a cross section of the multireligious, multicultural population of Jerusalem and Israel. The parents of the children being treated chose to have their children treated at Hadassah, despite the ongoing slander against the department, which continues even today.
ON THE anniversary of the event, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee visited the department at Hadassah. The committee’s visit was a result of the continued “anti-Hadassah” activities that include incitement and slander in the media, spurred on by immoral activists and agendas – motivated politicians, such as MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union), with their political declarations from the Knesset floor; and Jerusalem city council opposition member Ms. Hassan-Nahoum in the Magazine.
Their aim is to slander Hadassah to achieve one goal – to fulfill the wish of the six former PHO physicians who deserted the children at Hadassah in order to open a second hemato-oncology department at Shaare Zedek, as they originally planned. This, despite the fact that the Health Ministry did not approve the opening of such a department and that the High Court of Justice ruled that such a department would not open.
The provocations included telephone conversations with parents of hospitalized children, aimed at convincing them to leave Hadassah in favor of hospitals in central Israel. Imagine how the parents of a child with cancer would feel hearing “good-hearted” consultants on the phone telling them that their child is in danger due to the poor quality of the staff at Hadassah. It is immoral to scare parents and families of children with cancer and use them for their own agenda.
I prefer to quote the members of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee – chairman Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) and MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi), Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) and Dan Saida (Shas) – during their visit to the department: “It is evident that great efforts have been invested in the rehabilitation of the department and the genuine concern for the children of Jerusalem... We must restore faith in the health system and in Hadassah Hospital as part of a quality and equitable health system that is available to all.”
In spite of everything, Hadassah will continue with its developments and striding forward, as the famous Galileo quotation goes: “Eppur si muove” (And yet it does move). The department today is a shining example of quality medical treatment; advanced scientific, basic and clinical research; and sophisticated medicine in the State of Israel.
The writer is director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization.