Bikur Cholim of Baltimore is expanding its Patient Advocacy Program, a step that will improve the organization’s ability to help Jewish patients receive critical medical care, according to Bikur Cholim President Eric Reitberger.
The expansion, unveiled at the organization’s annual fundraiser on July 29, became possible due to a new agreement with Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital, which will give Bikur Cholim Executive Director and Patient Advocate Rabbi Pinchos Rabinowitz greater access to the hospital’s facilities and medical staff.
After piloting the expanded program for almost a year, Bikur Cholim is confident that the change will improve its ability to advance the care of patients under its wings, said Reitberger.
“Before, our patient advocate was more of a service agent, making sure that patients had food, transportation, and visitations,” he added. “This takes it to a whole new level as far as being able to facilitate critical assistance on the medical side as well.”
Better Care for Baltimore’s Jewish Community
Under the newly-signed agreement, Rabbi Rabinowitz will have an official position within Sinai Hospital through the hospital’s patient experience office.
“We help people focus on their family member and help them get better, rather than being lost in the system,” said Rabbi Rabinowitz. The organization can aid families with a range of needs, from getting referrals or appointments to fulfilling religious and dietary needs to simply having someone looking after the patients, he said.
According to Reitberger, the efforts to expand the Patient Advocacy Program came from a growing need in the community.
“As medicine and hospitalization have evolved and changed over the years, having an advocate in someone that understands the system and can help you navigate through it has become more important,” he said.
In a video that accompanied the announcement of the expanded program, Dr. Ronnie Samet, anesthesiologist at University of Maryland Medical Center, and one of the doctors who helped the organization create the Patient Advocacy Program, said that the type of help Bikur Cholim affords patients could be crucial to their recovery.
“Patients who have family members or a patient advocate tend to do better and get out of the hospital quicker,” Samet said.
Established in 1985, Bikur Cholim of Baltimore is a volunteer-based organization that provides support to people facing illness in the Jewish community of Baltimore and surrounding areas. According to their latest data, Bikur Cholim organizes more than 6,000 patient visits per year and prepares more than 8,000 meals for hospitalized or homebound patients and their families every year.
Serving homebound and hospitalized patients as well as their families, Bikur Cholim provides a host of services aimed at improving the quality of care these patients receive. These services include the arrangement of visitations, transportation, medical equipment, Kosher food, and Shabbat or High Holiday services.
Alongside the expansion of the Patient Advocacy Program, Bikur Cholim announced last month that it will be providing patients at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore with warm Shabbat meals via its on-location food pantry.
Bikur Cholim food pantries can be found at multiple Baltimore hospitals including Sinai Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). These food pantries are accessible at any time of day, and meals are available to both patients and their families.
In addition to Sinai Hospital, Bikur Cholim serves patients in many Baltimore-area hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Hospital, UMMC, Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), Sheppard Pratt, Johns Hopkins Bayview, and others.
By Anis Modi
Anis Modi is a staff reporter for Kol HaBirah. Born and raised in Israel, he currently writes for several DC-based publications while pursuing his master’s degree at American University in Washington, D.C.