Monday, November 11, 2019

Kalanit Taub a Frum Female Hatzolah Volunteer In Israel Defends Ezras Nashim

My name is Kalanit Taub, I am a new EMT with United Hatzalah. Recently an incident occurred that really brought home what I, as a woman, have to offer in the field of EMS in my own community and in general.

The incident occurred recently at 1:00 a.m. in the morning. I was just about to finish an ambulance shift with United Hatzalah when we received an emergency alert that a woman near our location was having gynecological issues. Together with the rest of the male ambulance crew, we rushed over to the woman’s house. Two male EMTs had beaten the ambulance to the location and were already present inside the woman’s home. However, the pregnant woman was sitting alone and did not want any men to come in and examine her. Her delicate situation was made even more delicate by the fact that only men had arrived to help for an issue that she wanted to keep as private as possible.

As the only female EMT present, I approached her and closed the door behind me in order to give her back some privacy. She was bleeding intensely. I treated her and informed the ambulance crew that this was a “scoop and run” incident and that they should get the ambulance ready for immediate transport. As a team, we got her on a chair, covered her and rushed her onto the ambulance. In less than five minutes we had her at the hospital and rushed her into the emergency room. With situations such as these, every minute is important, and getting her to the hospital ASAP was critical.
Recent headlines in Israel and in the U.S. have discussed the case of the attempts by various Hatzaloh groups in New York to block Ezras Nashim in their petition for an ambulance license. Ezras Nashim is an all-female Hasidic EMS organization that was started by Ruchie Frier. It operates in five locations in the New York area. It was founded after the various Hatzaloh groups in New York refused to allow women to join their teams.
As a frum woman, I understand and recognize the importance of tznius. How one dresses and behaves, is a part of our lifestyle as is choosing which community to belong to. These things are a constant part of my life. The same is true for the many other frum women. When it comes to EMS work the issues are no different. Women who are a part of a community that values tznius, would like to maintain that level of tznius even in emergency situations whenever possible. It is completely understandable that frum women feel uncomfortable when being treated by a man, even if it is halachikally permissible. This discomfort is, not just on the surface, but it is deeply ingrained in who these women are and the lifestyles that we have chosen.
As an EMT with United Hatzalah of Israel, I regularly see the importance of women responders in the field of EMS. While it is true that halachically there are no issues with men treating women in cases of emergencies or vice versa, what happens in the field is quite different.
A person’s feelings and instincts in the moment of need are paramount. A woman, terrified in the face of a medical emergency of an intimate nature, calls emergency services for help. In a normal scenario, strange men arrive at her house, and instinctively, despite all the risk, she doesn’t want those strange men to approach. This problematic issue can be compounded even more so if the respondes are men whom she knows from her own neighborhood or who are friendly with her husband or family.
I am sure, that with convincing, the woman who I treated would have allowed the men to help her after some time. But in a case such as hers, where every minute counted, the fact that I was there as a female EMT, made things move more quickly and got the woman the help that she desperately needed, sooner, and with more dignity, than she would have had being treated by the men.
The other night, I, as a first responder, arrived at an incident where a woman was having a miscarriage. When the ambulance arrived, the woman deflated when she saw that all the staff on the ambulance were male and that she would be alone with them, being treated by them on her way to the hospital which was about 20 minutes away. Seeing her plight, I joined the ambulance crew for the hospital transport and my presence brought the woman some measure of comfort and security, at a time when she so sorely needed it.
Female EMTs save lives. That’s the reality. At the end of the day, all EMTs should have the same goal: “Ready to save lives.” An EMT who doesn’t keep that in the forefront of their mind isn’t living up to what it means to be an EMT. But in addition to that, in addition to the actual medical procedures, female EMTs can bring a level of dignity back to female patients, that men, no matter how good-intentioned they are, simply cannot provide. And in many situations, that too can be a lifesaver.

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