As hospitals in Israel are struggling to keep up with the rising number of COVID-19 patients, special attention must be paid to providing virus-positive kids with age-appropriate care and services. At Sheba Medical Center, a specialty ward to fulfill the unique needs of children has been opened. As all the young patients in the COVID kids’ ward will be positive for the virus, they can interact freely without fear of spreading the infection.
“A lot of small hospitals are struggling to care for coronavirus kids, so part of the rationale behind the new facility is to help them,” said Dr. Itai Pessach, Director of the Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba Medical Center.
Children with COVID-19 have frequently been placed in general coronavirus wards that aren’t suitable for their age group. Dr. Pessach explains that hospitals need to provide regular pediatric care, which is typically given against a cheery, colorful backdrop and other elements that boost children’s psychological and physical wellbeing
“The biggest consideration has been to find a way to provide holistic care, not just a bed, but also a place to play, conduct school studies, and other things that kids need,” said Dr. Pessach. “They’ll get clowns, they’ll get school teachers, and they will get to play with each other.”
The most common type of pediatric COVID-19 patient presents mild symptoms of the virus but needs to be hospitalized for another medical condition, such as cancer. These kids are usually more mobile than the majority of hospitalized coronavirus patients. That translates into a livelier ward, with kids roaming and taking advantage of play facilities.
Learning will be a part of the special unit, with teachers wearing hazmat suits to enter the ward or giving classes online. Clowns in protective gear will also enter the rooms as entertainment.
Making sure that there are enough beds is a major challenge. Initially, the ward will accommodate only 12 children, and it will also have room for the same number of parents. Pessach discusses how the medical staff feels strongly about the importance of having parents come in with the kids. Parents will be tested before the children are hospitalized, and if the parent tests positive, it will be a simple choice for the parent to stay at Sheba too. But if the parents are negative, they will need to choose whether or not to stay with the child.
“We just don’t think a child should be hospitalized in isolation,” said Dr. Pessach.