Clowns in hazmat suits and a bed for mommy: Hospital opens COVID kids facility

With clowns in hazmat suits and playrooms for the positive, a central Israel hospital is opening a dedicated children’s COVID-19 facility.

Some Israeli hospitals are exceeding capacity for virus patients, leaving doctors wondering how to provide the specialist care that coronavirus-positive kids need.

“A lot of small hospitals are struggling to care for coronavirus kids, so part of rationale behind the new facility is to help them,” said Itai Pessach, director of the children’s hospital at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, which is opening its new ward on Thursday.

He said that children with COVID-19 often find themselves in rooms within general virus wards that aren’t suited for their age group. The challenge, he said, is to provide the regular pediatric experience, with bright decor and other elements that tend to their psychological as well as physical wellbeing.

Illustrative image: Medical clown Nimrod Eisenberg performing at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center during the coronavirus pandemic (courtesy of Nimrod Eisenberg)

“The biggest consideration has been to find a way to give holistic care, not just a bed, but also a place to play, conduct school studies, and other things that kids need,” Pessach told The Times of Israel. “They’ll get clowns, they’ll get school teachers, and they will get to play with one another.”

As all patients will be positive, he said, they can interact without worries of infection spreading.

Itai Pessach, director of the children’s hospital at Sheba Medical Center, during a television interview (courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

He said that the typical pediatric COVID-19 patient — the exact number is unclear — has mild symptoms from the virus, but needs to be in the hospital for other conditions, such as cancer, and is more mobile than most hospitalized virus patients. This means that unlike in regular coronavirus wards, the ward will be lively, with children moving around freely and taking advantage of play facilities.

They will be in constant contact with teachers, some of them through online lessons and some with educators who will don hazmat suits to enter. Clowns will also visit patients, wearing protective gear.

One of the biggest challenges in setting up the new ward is that while it will initially accommodate just 12 children, it will be home to at least the same number of parents.

“The parents will come in with the kids, we think this is very important,” said Pessach.

“We’ll test them before the children are hospitalized, and if a parent tests positive, it will be a simple choice for that parent to stay. But even if parents are negative, we will let them choose to stay with a child, obviously understanding they must go into quarantine when they leave. We just don’t think a child should be hospitalized in isolation.”

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