Magen David Adom has recently been coordinating with the Health Ministry, the Israeli government and all other relevant authorities who are dealing with the recent coronavirus pandemic and, in doing so, have been utilising every bit of their expertise in infection control.
Under the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, Magen David Adom began by opening a special hotline focusing on treating people suspected of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19).
This allowed them to closely monitor and track the spread of suspected cases of the virus whilst also going some way to keeping the public calm and showing them that there is no cause for alarm as proper measures of care are in place.
Since the opening of the hotline and at the time of publication, more than 15,000 citizen inquiries have been received at Magen David Adom’s 101 Emergency Call Center regarding coronavirus.
However, it must be made clear that most of these were from concerned citizens who actually revealed no symptoms of the virus at all.
Anyone suspected of coming into contact with the virus is advised to call the hotline where paramedics and other health professionals who field the emergency calls are then joined by an on-call doctor or nurse who goes on to decide how each case should proceed and whether medical care is needed.
One of the most primary points of contact is a dedicated Health Ministry stand, operated 24/7 by MDA, at Ben Gurion airport which has been in place since the beginning of February this year.
The stand checks passengers arriving from China as well as those who have come into contact with individuals who have recently visited the country.
The efforts made by MDA and the Health Ministry in educating the public and in further containing suspected and verified cases of the virus have led to a number of home quarantines.
Volunteer paramedics from MDA visit the homes — in specialised protective clothing — and obtain mucosal samples which are then taken to a laboratory in the centre of the country for further testing.
More than 145 of Magen David Adom’s volunteers have undergone dedicated training on how to collect samples from the patients in order to deny the presence of coronavirus.
As part of the training, paramedics practiced taking the patient’s samples while staying fully protected against infection.
The medics and paramedics in MDA’s 101 Emergency Call Center were also trained to question and manage the cases and Magen David Adom has developed a special system where, among other things, a video call with the patient can be made.
In case an urgent and life-saving evacuation is needed, requiring hospitalisation of a patient suspected of being infected with coronavirus, MDA EMTs will use an insulated stretcher that allows patient evacuation without the risk of further contagion.
So far, more than 30 samples have been taken and it should be emphasized that, up until now, no positive results have been recorded in the country, except for individuals of a special case who returned from a cruise ship in Japan.
MDA paramedic Fadi Dekaidek, who has taken a few mucosal samples from citizens quarantined within their homes, went on to explain: “Before I enter the home I contact the patient and their family to let them know that I will be arriving and what is likely to happen.’
“I am doing this because it is a complicated situation, requiring a certain amount of reassurance, just the way we were trained.’
“As an MDA paramedic, you find yourself in a complex situation. I walk into the patient’s home for a few minutes, wearing a full protective suit in order to perform the test and immediately leave.’
“The specimen goes to the lab for testing in an airtight box. I hope these people are healthy and that tests will be negative.”
MDA Director general, Eli Bin, stated: “We took the task very seriously and are dealing with it effectively in parallel with MDA’s routine activities.’
“On average, 6,500 calls are received each day in MDA’s 101 Emergency Dispatch Center, and we have the ability to handle even greater loads, as is the case nowadays, where close to 9,000 calls are being answered daily.”
In cases such as these, sometimes a response which shows the public that measures and precautions are in place to guarantee their safety go a long way in decreasing levels of public panic and limit the additional burden placed upon emergency services which would undoubtedly be higher if such measures were not in place.
Add to this the ability to closely track suspected and confirmed cases of viruses and other contagions and the importance of laying a strong foundation for infection control based upon public outreach and education becomes immediately apparent.