“Veshamarta” – Emergency campaign to rescue the elderly population and prevent the collapse of the Israeli healthcare system
In Israel there are approximately 300 geriatric institutions operated by private companies, NGOs and governmental agencies. These institutions employ a total of about 12,000 staff members caring for the comprehensive needs of about 25,000 residents in over 900 wards.
Back in the first days of the Coronavirus outbreak, it became clear that these institutions, their residents and staff, are at an especially high risk: residents are exposed to the highest rates of serious illness and mortality due to their age and health condition, and as a result the staff are exposed as well, specifically due to the quarantine measures and isolation required in order to cope with the spread of the virus. It was clear that the quarantine would most likely increase levels of loneliness and depression among residents. In parallel, fears amounted that an outbreak of the pandemic in geriatric institutions would result in over-congestion of hospital emergency rooms and even to a total collapse of the entire health system in Israel.
With this situation in mind, in the middle of March 2020 the “Veshamarta” campaign was initiated by a team of social entrepreneurs who understood that taking immediate measures to prevent contagion of the residents and staff of these institutions is an urgent national challenge.
By the end of March 2020 the team quickly organized, established collaborations, recruited resources, identified existing gaps and planned ways to overcome them. From the beginning, the campaign was developed in a way that could form the basis for the establishment of a future national plan to protect the senior population and healthcare system from collapse.
The campaign was launched on the 1st of April 2020, even before the Ministry of Health had identified and defined geriatric institutions as high-risk areas that require a unique response. The Veshamarta campaign quickly became the main solution provider for all geriatric institutions in Israel in overcoming the threats of the pandemic for the population living in the institutions, by focusing on five areas in parallel:
Knowledge and skills – the development of guidelines and application of the Ministry of Health policy to practical uses, training of managers and workers and controlling rules of conduct and protection during the pandemic.
Staffing – mapping of needs, creating connections between organizations, NGOs, and employment services for geriatric institutions (most workers are needed for nursing, cleaning, janitorial and maintenance jobs).
Logistics – Procurement and supply of means of protection for 12,000 personnel working in the institutions, with 50% of funds supplied by Veshamarta and 50% through government funding. Protection equipment was procured and delivered for the months of April, May and June. In addition, 70 emergency outbreak kits were prepared and delivered, with protection equipment for an entire institution to cover a three day period in the event of a future outbreak.
Resilience initiatives – Mainly with the managers of the institutions and umbrella organizations, in order to build and strengthen the institutions’ ability to cope with the crisis.
Emotional support and prevention of loneliness – Emotional support for the institutions’ residents in light of their increased loneliness after external visitors were banned from visiting. Initiatives included distribution of approx. 1,000 tablet devices, flowers and gift baskets to the staff and residents.
Three weeks into the campaign, on 20 April, the Ministry of Health launched a national program for protecting residents of institutions for the elderly – “Fathers and Mothers Shield”, which integrated and continued the operations of the “Veshamarta” campaign.
At present, the “Veshamarta” team is assisting in the process of recruiting 200 additional staff that will integrate in institutions in order to address the current shortage in personnel, in part by offering employment grants funded by "Veshamarta". In addition, the “Fathers and Mothers Shield” national headquarters has requested the “Veshamarta” team to lead a series of round tables participated by interested parties from all sectors, aimed at strengthening resilience and coping among institutions for the elderly in Israel.
The “Veshamarta” campaign has been made possible thanks to corporations, social organizations and businesspersons, alongside third sector experts and managers operating in cooperation and coordination with the relevant government ministries. Heading the group of founders is social entrepreneur and businessman Ronny Douek. The principles and operational guidelines for the “Veshamarta” campaign has been jointly developed by a group of organizations that include Zionism 2000, Sheatufim and The National Initiatives Fund (which in recent years has successfully led a national project to combat Hospital Acquired Infections).
The Sheinberg Family Foundation has a central and decisive role in creating the strong impact of Veshamarta, thanks to its meaningful support and close involvement in the campaign.
For more information on how you can help, contact us at email@example.com
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