The leader of the Belz Hasidic sect was secretly treated for coronavirus at his home by medical teams from Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, after he refused hospitalization, Hebrew media reported Monday.
According to a report in the Haaretz newspaper, which was stridently denied by the hospital, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach received round-the-clock treatment from a doctor and Hadassah medical workers around two months ago when he was in critical condition with COVID-19.
The treatment started after Rokeach, who has ordered his followers to ignore coronavirus restrictions, refused to be hospitalized for treatment, the report said. All the necessary medical equipment was brought to his home and his room there was effectively converted into a mini intensive care unit, the report said.
Rokeach contracted the virus 11 days after a mass wedding for his grandson, which was held in violation of the coronavirus rules. Reports at the time said that he was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem, but the hospital denied this.
On Sunday, Channel 12 revealed that a widespread network of volunteers in ultra-Orthodox areas has been secretly treating thousands of coronavirus patients in their homes for months, as an alternative to increasingly overcrowded hospitals, without authorities’ knowledge.
The initiative began in anti-Zionist Haredi sects that wanted to avoid using Israeli hospitals, and has spread to the entire community, as hospitals come closer to being overwhelmed, and their staff overworked, the channel reported, mentioning Rokeach as a beneficiary of the program.
Organizers of the private initiative argue that their program provides better treatment than the medical establishment and lifts some of the burden off the health care system, advocating for a similar initiative outside of the ultra-Orthodox community.
At least 170 people bring treated by the secret volunteer network are in serious condition right now, and over 2,000 serious patients have received the underground treatment over the past six months, according to Sunday’s report. Organizers claimed that only a total of 10-15 of its patients ended up going to hospitals, of whom just three — including one patient who was filmed by the Channel 12 crew last week — have died.
The Haaretz report suggests that state-run institutions may also have taken part in the initiative.
Hadassah, however, denied the report as “fake news,” saying in a statement that it was “false from beginning to end.” According to the statement, Hadassah did not provide treatment or medical supplies to Rokeach and did not build an intensive care unit in his home. The hospital called on Haaretz to publish an apology and take down its original article.