Purim is a time to peel back layers and reveal what’s going on beneath the mask. This month, we offer you an inside glimpse on what’s really going on in our medical department: an interview with Mrs. Nechama Nulman, the coordinator of all Chaim V’Chessed medical activities. Meet Mrs. Nulman, learn what she does, and get a sneak peek into some of the issues she’s been dealing with lately.
You’ll read about the essence of the work of our medical department. Its mantra resounds with every member of our team: it is more than what we do – it is who we are.
This season is one of joy and of spreading joy to others. It’s something that Chaim V’Chessed works hard to accomplish every day.
Mrs. Nechama Nulman manages all aspects of medical logistics, coordinating the activities of Chaim V’Chessed staffers, healthcare providers and hospitals to ensure that patients’ needs are met both during and beyond Chaim V’Chessed’s involvement.
How would you describe what you do?
I am the first address for all of Chaim V’Chessed’s medical inquiries, and I follow through on every case that comes our way. Every situation requires a different response. Sometimes, I can provide what’s needed; other times, I make the appropriate connections with fellow Chaim V’Chessed staff members or with professionals or volunteers outside our organization.
What types of medical inquiries do you deal with, and how?
The Israeli health care system is very different than what English speakers from outside Israel are used to. We get calls from English speakers dealing with situations that range from regular, everyday medical questions to life and death crises.
I guide people on how to deal with their kupot cholim when issues come up, either as a result of the language barrier or due to confusion on the patient’s or secretary’s part. This often happens when the service requested is not a common one. We have connections with knowledgeable representatives in each kupat cholim who work well with us, hear us out and see if they can help – even if the first answer was no.
We also provide guidance on standard medical logistics, like scheduling appointments, preparing for procedures, and accessing test results. We do not offer medical referrals; when patients reach out to us at square one, we direct them to yo’atzim who can offer appropriate medical referrals, then have them call back with the name of their doctor of choice so that we can help them move forward. Additionally, we answer questions on medical insurance for tourists, students and long-term residents, including those with preexisting medical conditions, for whom the options are far more limited.
Last but not least, we often help simply by being here and offering support. Sometimes, all a person needs to hear is, “It’s normal,” or, “This is what the next step is – I’ll call you back to find out how it goes.” Even when a person is not in immediate crisis, we can offer the honest reassurance that he or she is not alone.
Can you give examples of cases you are working on now?
One case we are dealing with now involves a sought-after surgeon who comes to work in Israel only twice a year. He operated a while ago on a child from Israel in the US, and the family is trying to get him to finish the second half of the procedure over his next trip to Israel. We are advocating for kupat cholim coverage on their behalf and are also working to secure an appointment with the doctor.
Another caller is waiting for approval from her kupat cholim for a certain hard-to-obtain medication. In the meantime, we obtained some samples for her so that she could begin treatment.
Of course, we are constantly working to expedite critical appointments in hospitals. When patients truly need their scheduled appointments sooner, either because of intense pain, inability to function, or severe medical complications, we use our connections and know-how to secure earlier appointments.
What brought you to the medical field?
Living in Eretz Yisrael for 21 years and raising a family here has given me plenty of medical background. Additionally, my family was recently faced with a crisis that resulted in almost two years of medical and hospital intervention, and my knowledge became even more extensive. The truth is that I was always interested in the field and it is something I naturally enjoy.
Is there any advice you would like to offer to the members of the English-speaking community?
Number one, make sure your insurance coverage is always up to date. If you’re a visa holder, it is especially important to stay on top of every family member’s visa – it is the only way to keep your Bituach Leumi account active.
Number two, always make sure you get a clear answer from the secretary or doctor before you walk away. Do not hesitate to keep asking until you understand the situation perfectly. So many headaches are caused by misunderstandings.
Lastly, keep in mind the famous rule: if the answer is no, try again – whether the question was about reimbursement, coverage for a procedure, or a service of some sort. That mentality is foreign to English speakers who come from countries where a word is a word and a law is a law! In Israel, this is not so clear, because different clinics or different employees are more or less knowledgeable and can help in different ways. “No” might just mean that the person you spoke to first can’t help you.