On Thursday, January 13, after long and intensive preparation, we had the first of 10 meetings of the cross-cultural dialogue group of health professionals in Jerusalem. Thirty participants, 19 Jews and 11 Arabs, met for the first time at Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital. The participants included doctors from Jerusalem hospitals (Hadassah Mount Scopus, Hadassah Ein Kerem, Shaare Tsedek, Bikur Holim, Al-Mukassed and more), HMOs (Clalit and Maccabi) and also from the Red Crescent.
The group heard an introduction to medicine in East Jerusalem from Dr. Nafiz Nubani, Deputy Director of the Jerusalem District of the Ministry of Health. We then had a presentation by Dr. Maurit Be’eri, Deputy CEO of Alyn Pediatric Hospital, on the process of increasing cultural competency that the institution has been undergoing with the assistance of the JICC. Thanks to the simultaneous translation, we could have the talks in Arabic and Hebrew, respecting the mother tongues and identities of all the participants. The next meetings will deal with the treatment process from the primary clinic in east Jerusalem to the hospital and back, cultural competency in the context of Islam and East Jerusalem, becoming acquainted with healthcare models that were used in other places, and more. One of the meetings will be dedicated to touring clinics in East Jerusalem.
We put intensive effort into creating this group; indeed, it was a challenge we wanted to invest in. At the beginning of the process, we intended to hold a group for a variety of medical professionals – doctors, nurses, administrators, pharmacists, etc. People with whom we consulted had two assumptions. One was that doctors would not be interested in a group like this and would not register for it because they are too busy. The second was that doctors would not come to a group that includes people from other professions… We took the risk – we decided to limit the group to doctors and to try anyway – we knew that if we succeed, these doctors will be the best agents of change in the health system. The 30 doctors who came to the meeting, most of whom senior physicians in the health system in East and West Jerusalem, showed us that we were correct in our strategy.
Intensive staff efforts were required for this group to materialize and then to crystallize. Hadassah agreed to notify its entire doctors’ mailing list about it. HARI (Israeli Doctors Histadrut/Union) distributed notices about the group to all the doctors in Israel (16,000 doctors). The surprising result was that there were many who called and asked for details. Tal Kligman, the project manager, worked with the entire project team to create engaging content for the meetings, including cultural competence issues and strategies, best practices for interaction between diverse staff members, and more. Much work was invested in creating contents and structure that would be effective and relevant for all participants, Arabs and Jews, and be appealing to them. Tal spoke with each of the participants a few times. An evaluator was selected for the process and began his work.
At this point, after one meeting, our feeling about the implementation is that it is very successful. It is very important to note that without the funding of the Beracha Foundation, this group could not take place. The investment of staff time and effort, the intense facilitation, the simultaneous translation etc. – all these made the recruitment of the doctors possible and optimized the impact of the process. As a result, senior doctors on both sides (including the director of Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital, heads of departments, heads of HMO teams, deputy general of the Ministry of Health Jerusalem District and others) have enrolled. We believe that this high-profile group will create a network of Arab and Jewish doctors in Jerusalem that will be helpful (together with the JICC’s efforts in the field) to improve equality in medicine in Jerusalem. The JICC has a mission to make Jerusalem a culturally competent city, and this group of doctors will definitely help us in this mission, thanks to the process they will get through in these meetings.