Visiting a Hospital on Shabbat

https://pixabay.com/photos/hospital-bed-doctor-surgery-1802679/

QUESTION
Maryland

I work at a nursing home. Like many institutions, during covid we checked temps and asked visitors (and staff) to use an iPad to answer symptom checks as they come in, even on Shabbat. When I come on Shabbat, I have been allowing staff to check my temp with an electronic thermometer and a non-Jewish receptionist ask me the iPad question while s/he enters them in for me. I am trying to make an official policy. Considering the ongoing pikuach nefesh, it would seem unnecessary to require a non-Jew to use these instruments, as opposed to a Jewish one. Of course, if it is pikuach nefesh, I could do it myself instead of the Jewish receptionist. However, I don’t want to ask other shomrei shabbat Jews to do that. But I also don’t want to have to go through the awkward moment of having our guests ask if the receptionist is Jewish.

I am assuming that taking someone’s temp is a problem of measuring on Shabbat and not just an issue of chasmal.

Do you think it’s ok to have a policy requiring all receptionists to check temps and use the iPads? Do I need to inform our guests if the receptionist is actually Jewish? I would then have to train our Jewish receptionists to educate visitors about pikuach nefesh.

Thank you for any thoughts or guidance.

ANSWER

First—just to clarify the parameters—I don’t think I would categorize taking of temperatures for visitors as pikuach nefesh, since they could just choose not to visit. However, given that visiting is helpful for the sick person’s emotional and medical well-being, their visiting at least falls into the tzarkhei choleh category.

It also seems to me that—theoretically speaking—asking the questions could be done without an iPad, although I imagine that it is important for health purposes to not just have people answer that they don’t have symptoms, but to have a record of the responses. It is, I assume, hospital policy, so one way or the other it is required to make it possible for someone to visit which is tzorchei choleh. Of course, doing this on an iPad is infinitely better than writing it down, from a Shabbat perspective.

Regardless, using electricity is at most a d’rbanan, and would be clearly allowed for staff because of pikuach nefesh and visitors because of tzorchei choleh. Measuring is also a d’rbanan, but here it is even less, since מדידת מצוה is mutar li’chatchila, and tzorchei choleh certainly qualifies. So I think it is fully acceptable as policy to require all receptionists to take temperature and to ask the questions via iPad.

I do not think you have to educate people about this. Don’t make something a problem that almost all people will not see as such. If someone needs any clarification, they can speak to you.

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