After two strokes and debilitating migraines in two years, and days of physiotherapy in a hospital bed, Hashem Haikin, the 90-year-old founder of a funeral and funeral home in Bnei Brak, found his brother in dire need of an ambulance to the operating room. And instead of calling a doctor, Haikin called a social worker, several rabbis and a doctor from a nearby hospital.
When the paramedics arrived, they said his brother, a leading Hasidic community figure, could go home the next day. Haikin, who was skeptical, made the decision to take the family to hospital.
“The younger generation, in general, has a special aversion to hospitalization,” Haikin said. “They prefer to stay home.”
Haikin’s home health care philosophy is now being touted by a group of ultra-Orthodox medical professionals and nurses in Jerusalem, who are in the process of setting up a home care service, called the Religious Medical Staff for Amadim. The program has the support of Jerusalem’s religious and ultra-Orthodox communities.
The program, which received its initial funding from the Israeli government in 2015, provides patients with a free, personalized medical, spiritual and social support team consisting of nursing and social workers, doctors and spiritual leaders who offer advice about medications, housing, transportation and housing and finances, and help with daily responsibilities like laundry and food preparation. Each doctor charges approximately $3,200 a month.
While medical experts say having a home-based approach may help patients with less severe conditions, it is not without drawbacks.
While some patients may be hesitant to undergo major surgery at home, especially when they are a patient of others in the home, Haikin said he had yet to have someone refuse a treatment, and has even had patients perform a minor procedure themselves.
“Our only obstacle is waiting for patients to request it,” he said.
For Ephraim Gross, the founder of Amadim, and the man behind the home care program, the ethos is personal.
“It’s not about making you feel comfortable,” he said. “It’s about saving your life.”