COVID-19 UPDATE: March 15, 2020
Precautions and Regulations at ALEH Centers
Early this morning, in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19, Israel began shuttering all non-vital businesses and services, encouraging individuals who are able to work from home to do so, and the entire educational system has transitioned to distance learning.
At ALEH, we must continue to work to ensure the safety and continued health of our residents, children and adults with severe complex disabilities, all of whom have compromised immune systems and weak respiratory functioning.
As of early last week, we instituted stringent measures to guarantee that our residents – the most vulnerable members of our society – are out of harm’s way and that all intensive care and rehabilitative services remain on track:
- No visitors are permitted to enter any of our ALEH centers (already in place for more than 10 days);
- Volunteers have been sent home;
- All staff members have received special training and are under strict scrutiny, including limiting their exposure to groups of 10 people or fewer, banning them from the use of public transportation, and tracking their every move;
- Staff members have been assigned to specific rooms/residences and groups of children and are not permitted to switch shifts with other staff members in order to avoid cross contamination;
- Hydrotherapy pools and rehabilitation fitness rooms at all ALEH centers have been closed and all vocational training programs have been cancelled;
- The rehabilitative horse stable and petting zoo at ALEH’s residential and rehabilitative village in the Negev has been closed;
- All of ALEH’s special education schools and early intervention centers, which cater to children from the community who live outside the ALEH facilities, have been closed.
Additional measures may be taken in the coming days to protect our residents from this potentially fatal virus. Please stay tuned for further updates.
Request for Governmental Assistance
Last week, ALEH sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ofir Akunis, and Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman requesting governmental assistance to secure the health of our residents during these trying times:
- Increased Respiratory Treatments – ALEH provides residents with respiratory treatments that are coordinated with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Health. We are increasing these critical respiratory treatments to prevent pneumonia and thwart the need for hospitalization. As such, we requested additional funding beyond the ILS 1.8 million annual budget provided for respiratory treatments.
- Additional Hygienic Supplies – As of January 2020, the cost of hygienic supplies has risen dramatically, and some supplies have increased by 100%. The current pandemic has caused the prices to climb even higher. In addition to the increased cost, we are purchasing more supplies than usual in order to safeguard the lives of our residents and requested compensation for the high costs of these critical supplies.
- Higher Transportation Costs – Due to the nature of this emergency situation, we must limit our staff’s use of public transportation. We have, therefore, requested an increase of the current employee transportation stipend so that staff members can get to and from work without risking the contamination of our sterile environment.
- Compensation for Sick Leave – Because we care for individuals with complex medical conditions, extra care must be taken and staff members cannot come to work with even the slightest symptoms of possible illness or cold. As such, we also requested compensation for additional sick days to be utilized during this period of international pandemic.
- Heightened Sanitation Standards – As of January 2020, we have increased sanitation services in residential rooms, bathrooms and areas of public access to ward off sickness and disease. The current crisis makes these heightened sanitation standards more important than ever, and we require additional stipends to pay the sanitation staff for the heavier workload.
- One-Time Staff Recruitment Allowance – Due to the sudden drastic reduction in staff and the absence of our volunteers from Israel and abroad, it is essential that we fast-track a process for the recruitment of new qualified professional staff, and we request a one-time allowance to enable this process to move forward.
In our letter, we emphasized that every one of these steps have proven absolutely essential, as we have, thus far, been able to prevent the pandemic from reaching the residents of ALEH. That said, the requested enhanced level of partnership from the government is crucial if we are to succeed in this extremely urgent life-saving mission – we cannot do this alone.
Educating Our Residents
More than 90% of the hundreds children and adults in ALEH’s frameworks of care are nonverbal, so ALEH special education staff developed a brilliant augmentative alternative communication (AAC) system that enables residents to accurately express their feelings, desires, and experiences by simply pointing at cards that match their moods or requests. For years, ALEH staff and volunteers have been utilizing the AAC system in classrooms and treatment areas to communicate with the residents and teach them new words and concepts.
Beginning early last week, the ALEH staff used a special AAC booklet to teach the residents about COVID-19 and explain why their realities would change dramatically in the days ahead. In addition to highlighting the importance of additional hand washing, the staff clarified why hugging, kissing and hand holding – staples of ALEH’s warm and familial atmosphere – would be at a minimum.
While the implementation of these restrictions are heartbreaking, the alternative is far worse. Here’s to the continued health of our amazing residents!
The needs of our ALEH children cannot be put on hold.
Public support is more important than ever to guarantee that our residents receive their daily respiratory treatments, their many specialized therapies that are critical to their care and development, and the medications and formulas that are not included in Israel’s health basket. With events, visitors, and fundraising meetings on hold, these vital services are in danger.
Though our ALEH residents are being distanced from the public to safeguard their health, it is essential that they never feel alone. DONATE NOW