On March 25, Israel’s Sheba Tel Hashomer Medical Center opened what is believed to be the world’s first psychiatric unit for COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Mark Weiser, chief of psychiatry at Sheba, will oversee the separate 16-bed unit.

“We are the first in the world to open a dedicated department of psychiatry for corona patients as part of our commitment to weaker populations,” Weiser announced to participants from 19 countries on a web-based press conference on March 26.

Weiser explained that psychiatric patients diagnosed with COVID-19 have difficulty adhering to social distancing and other hospital regulations meant to keep contagion at bay.

“The whole ward can get infected, as happened in South Korea,” he said, referring to a February incident at Chungdo Daenam Hospital. “So we designated one facility for all psychiatric patients in Israel who are COVID positive.”

Weiser said it took less than a week to convert a ward for this purpose.

The unit’s air ventilation system was designed to be disconnected from the rest of the hospital. Two-way communication technology was installed, enabling patients to speak to therapists and family members from a safe distance.

On March 31, Sheba also opened Israel’s first dedicated maternity unit for COVID positive women. It includes 10 beds, two birthing rooms, one OR for Cesarean births, a nursery and an OB/GYN exam room.