Hadassah Hospital Opens Israel’s First Paediatric ICU for COVID-19 Patients


Jerusalem sees surge of ‘very sick’ children in recent weeks; 4 of 8 available beds at new unit already filled, including a 10-day-old baby

 Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem has opened the country’s first paediatric intensive care unit specifically designed for coronavirus patients after thousands of children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past several weeks.

The unit has eight beds, four of which are already filled with sick children — the oldest being two-years-old and the young just ten days old, Ynet reported Friday.

One of the three children currently hospitalised is a nine-month-old baby who had no pre-existing condition and had been healthy before the diagnosis, the report said, adding that three of the four young patients are in serious condition.

A recent uptick in cases involving children led to the decision to open up an ICU designed for young patients who require special supervision, Ynet said. It is located on the same floor as the general paediatric ICU, but is completely isolated and protected by double doors.

“In recent days we began to see an increase in the number of children who are very sick with the virus,” Hadassah’s paediatric ICU director Dr. Uri Pollak told Ynet. “It is still not yet clear to us whether this is a change in the nature of the virus or a phenomenon derived from the fact that there are so many patients in the Jerusalem area.

Discussing the ward’s four current patients, Pollak said: “These are babies whose parents or some of their family members are also ill.”

Their parents are torn between caring for the other children at home, and staying by their sick baby’s bedside. “These babies need a hug, human contact, and when there is no parent next to them, it is very difficult to think about how they’re coping,” said Sonia Sharabi, a nurse in the ward.

“I just finished a video call with the family of a one-and-a-half-month-old baby, with his six siblings watching him from a distance… It breaks my heart,” she added.

A nurse stands in the new children’s ICU for coronavirus patients at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem on January 22, 2020. (Courtesy/Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem)

Recent weeks have seen greater incidents of children being infected, something attributed to the British mutation. Children appear to be more susceptible to catching and spreading the mutated virus than they were to the original strain, according to British researchers.

“We know that SARS-CoV-2, as it emerged as a virus, was not as efficient in infecting children as it was adults,” said Imperial College virologist Prof. Wendy Barclay last month, suggesting that the new variant may “put children on a more level playing field.”

Health Ministry data shows that one in three confirmed cases in recent weeks are below the age of 20 and one in eight are below the age of ten.

According to Education Ministry, there were 23,549 students who tested positive — 4,000 of whom are in preschool, 11,680 in elementary school and nearly 8,000 in high school.

Editor’s Note:

For more on this story visit The Times of Israel (https://www.timesofisrael.com/hadassah-hospital-opens-israels-first-pediatric-icu-for-covid-19-patients/) or Israel Hayom (https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/01/24/covid-cant-hurt-kids-new-icu-ward-in-jerusalem-shows-otherwise/)

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