It is over 35 years since I last underwent a surgical procedure, and now another (smaller) one is looming up ahead of me. Once again I find myself taking the winding route that leads up to the hospital on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When Hadassah Hospital was first conceived and built, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, David Ben-Gurion declared that the good air and peaceful surroundings of the Jerusalem Hills would help to cure the patients. The circular building, which was built with the help of the Hadassah Organization of America and was revolutionary in its day, with a view over the scenery from every ward, was based on advanced theories of medicine and drew much of its inspiration from the American way of life.
My stay in the hospital all those years ago was lengthy and painful but had a happy outcome. I emerged from it on the road to recovery, and I have enjoyed reasonable health ever since. When we moved to Mevasseret Zion, almost 25 years ago, the view from our house across the valley included Hadassah Hospital, as it nestled cosily on the hillside opposite. Over the years buildings have been added, and most recently an enormous new edifice, the Davidson Building, has been completed. Now the hospital complex occupies a large part of the hillside, and looks more like a factory than a hospital. In addition to the hospital it now incorporates a medical school, a dental school, nurses’ and students’ quarters, a hotel, a shopping centre, and many more things besides with which I am not acquainted.
In addition, medicine has advanced greatly in that period. I remember X-rays of various nasty kinds, but there was no such thing as Ultrasound, a CAT scan, an MRI or microscopic surgery. The surgeon who operated on me 35 years ago has long retired (and attends many of the concerts I go to), and several cadres of medical experts have come and gone meanwhile.
Today, the staff at the hospital is much greater in number and in variety. Sitting in a corridor, waiting for one of the high-tech procedures, an endless succession of uniformed individuals passes by, of every colour and ethnic affiliation, speaking almost every language under the sun. The patients, too, are drawn from all walks of Israeli society. I’m told that medical treatment is also accorded (for payment) to people from other countries, and that this constitutes a considerable source of income for the hospital.
The procedures. too. both medical and administrative, have been changed and updated. Thirty-five years ago there were no computers, and the ragged cardboard files that bulged with the various pieces of paper recording each patients’ progress had to be summoned from an arcane archive somewhere in the building. Today all that has gone and the X-ray I had done in one department was instantly sent to my computerised file, to be duly retrieved by the relevant physician.
I am also conscious of a marked change in the attitude of the personnel towards patients. I am just another member of the public (I decided not to take the private medical option, even though this was open to me through the medical insurance plan at my previous place of employment), using the same facilities that are available and compulsory for the entire Israeli population, but I can definitely sense a warmer, kinder attitude on the part of nurses, clerks, and physicians. Another welcome innovation is the pre-operative process, which involves a day spent in a pleasant, modern part of the hospital, and in which the patient is seen successively by a member of the surgical team, an anaesthetist, and a nurse, all of whom endeavour to explain the procedure. This is both efficient, as it does not require an overnight stay, and helpful, as it prepares you for what is to come. Hot and cold drinks are provided, and kind volunteers come round bringing sandwiches and cake.
I have been told that I will be staying in a ward in the brand new building, with every imaginable convenience and comfort. Each bed in a single or double room has its own TV, unlimited internet access, and even a safe for valuables. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but at least I’m not dreading it as much as I might have otherwise.