Shocking images: A senior nurse at Haifa's Bnei Zion Medical Center's neonatal unit was photographed recently with a premature baby-girl in her uniform pocket – as a humorous gesture.
Ynet has obtained the original footage, but has chosen not to reveal the nurse's identity. The nurse is considered one of the ward's most dedicated employees, with a career spanning more than a dozen years.
The hospital's administration refused to allow the nurse or the neonatal unit's director to personally comment on the photo, opting instead to release the following statement: "The Bnei Zion Medical Center's management views this incident as severe and will take the appropriate disciplinary actions against all those involved."
The Health Ministry issued a statement calling the incident "grievous." The nurse in question is scheduled to go before a ministry review board on Monday.
The kangaroo method? Preemie in a pocket
Dr. Amnon Rofe, director-general of the Bnei Zion Medical Center, said that the hospital received an anonymous complaint, which was immediately investigated. The photo, he told Ynet, was taken as part of a presentation meant to be screened for parents of premature babies hospitalized in the the neonatal unit.
"It Illustrates the 'kangaroo method' which is supposed to teach parents how to create a direct physical bond with the preemies," he said. "After we realized that when people see the photo they either smile or are completely shocked, we decided to take it out of the presentation."
The nurse shown in the photo, stressed Dr. Rofe, "is a senior nurse, who's very good at her job. All she did was pose for the photo, she didn't initiate it."
'Heads will roll'
Prof. Francis Mimouni, head of Pediatrics Medicine at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said that while completely inappropriate, the only thing the photo indicated was poor judgment: "If the baby's parents agreed, and the photo was taken under the proper medical supervision, I don't see a real problem.
"However, if it was done without the parents' consent I believe heads will roll."
Another neonatologist said that although the act is far from acceptable, the baby is clearly in no danger: "This isn’t something we do in neonatal units, but the preemie look stable. I'm sure no one would have taken her out of her incubator if it was life-threatening."
Oren Malberger, head of Lahav, the Israeli preemie association, was appalled by the photo: "This is outrageous and something must be done," he told Ynet.
"The neonatal unit at Bnei Zion is a reputable one, but this incident demonstrates, once again, the grave shortage of personnel in such units, which sometimes results in hospitals having to hire people who fail to meet the high standards required of neonatal professionals. Nevertheless, we are sure the hospital will handle the incident in the proper manner."
Ilana Cohen, head of the Israeli Nurses Union, was equally horrified: "Never, in all my years of nursing, have I seen such a thing. It's absolutely horrible. They could have used a doll."
Knesset Member Nadia Hilou (Labor-Meimad), who chairs the Knesset's Committee on Rights of the Child, said the photo represented "another low in the cruelty shown to babies and preemies. How can we work to boost fertility on one hand and once the babies arrive demonstrate such disregard for their lives?"
The incident generated massive negative publicity which put a damper on neonatologists' efforts to illustrate the dire conditions of neonatal care in Israel: According to data recently presented before the Knesset, neonatal units have just one nurse for every eight babies, while the standard calls for one nurse for every four. More than 20% of the units' physician posts are left unfulfilled.
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report