by Nick Kolyohin
JERUSALEM, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- As new COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Israeli hospitals have been recruiting volunteers who have recovered from the virus and are willing to come back to the COVID-19 wards to help.
The volunteers who have overcome COVID-19 need to be tested with antibodies in their blood in order to be accepted by the hospitals.
Shabi Shmalo, human resource manager of Tel Aviv Medical Center, told Xinhua that the hospital is looking for more volunteers and promises to test them periodically for antibodies. "Every month or two, we will test them," he said.
Only COVID-19 recovered patients can become volunteers and even not people who were vaccinated against the virus, stressed Shmalo.
While some recovered patients have antibodies even half a year after they overcome coronavirus, others stay without protective antibodies a few weeks after they defeat the disease.
Over half a million people in Israel have recovered from COVID-19.
Shmalo sees volunteers an important part of coronavirus wards, where the isolated patients desperately need human contact. "We have understood that coronavirus patients in the hospital need a human touch," he said.
Each time, a volunteer would stay inside the ward for a several-hour shift.
Angela Baranes, one of the volunteers at Tel Aviv Medical Center, said, "I really could understand how they feel and what their needs could be, and it makes me feel closer to those people."
Baranes stressed that her experience as an ex-patient makes her more able to help. Sometimes patients just need "a good word" or a person who will "touch their arms." Patients miss those basic communication when they are isolated, she said.
Riki Lavie, coronavirus volunteers coordinator and social worker at Tel Aviv Medical Center, said that volunteers need support as well. "It is hard to go inside coronavirus wards and witness the situation there. Hence we provide emotional and personal support for our volunteers."
Noa Pakter, head of coronavirus volunteers project at Sheba Medical Center, said that volunteers make COVID-19 patients feel less lonely.
Pakter stressed that medical teams are struggling to take care of patients. Still, they do not have time to assist them with all additional daily needs.
Liraz Maatuf, a volunteer at Sheba Medical Center, said that in each shift, she has different missions such as finding personal stuff that patients lost, and passing messages between family and patients.
Another volunteer at Sheba Medical Center, Orly Yona, noted that coronavirus wards are quiet and sad places. "We strive to make them less sad," she said.
Sometimes the help could be very trivial, yet vital, at this challenging time, such as just "preparing them coffee as they like" or "sing to them songs which they love," added Yona.
Although volunteers are supposed to be immune to the virus, they still wear full anti-virus protective gear like any other visitor or medical staff inside the COVID-19 inpatient departments.
Some volunteers would put a big picture of their faces and name tags on their outfit for the patients to recognize them more easily. Enditem