Strictly-Orthodox leader banned from three hospitals for ‘abusive behaviour’

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Strictly-Orthodox leader banned from three hospitals for ‘abusive behaviour’

Levi Schapiro of the Jewish Community Council of North London barred from Royal Free, Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals for allegedly abusing nurses and pretending to be a chaplain.

The Royal Free Hospital.
The Royal Free Hospital.

The head of a strictly-Orthodox advocacy group in Stamford Hill has been banned from three London hospitals after being accused of abusive behaviour towards nurses and of falsely claiming to be a chaplain.

Levi Schapiro, 29, founding director of the Jewish Community Council of North London (JCC), who vehemently denies any wrongdoing, is not allowed to enter the Royal Free Hospital, Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital, collectively known as the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust.

It comes just weeks after Orthodox Jewish leaders apologised to the Royal London Hospital, part of the Barts Health NHS Trust, regarding Schapiro’s alleged behaviour. Charedi leaders said it “undermined the relationship” between the NHS and the community.

In her letter on Monday, the chief executive of the combined Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust claimed that Schapiro’s “misrepresentation, attitude and forcefulness” towards staff left her with no choice but to ban him from the Trust’s premises except in the event of his own admission or to see immediate family.

Levi Schapiro, 29, founding director of the Jewish Community Council of North London.

“If you attend at any other time you will be asked to leave,” said Caroline Clarke, in a letter copied to Barnet Hospital chief executive Deborah Sanders, Royal Free Hospital chief executive Kate Slemeck, the group chief nurse, the deputy director of patient experience, the head of chaplaincy services, and an NHS security specialist.

The Royal Free London is one of the UK’s biggest trusts, employing 10,000 staff and treating more than 1.6 million patients annually across more than 30 locations.

Schapiro, who owns a PR company, heads up Crohn’s and Colitis Relief (CCR), which “promotes and protects the physical and mental health of patients suffering from Crohn’s, Colitis and all forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the UK through financial assistance, support, education, and practical advice”.

He strenuously denied any wrongdoing, as Clarke referred to his “continued visits and inappropriate conversations with staff”. She said Schapiro had sought access to a Jewish patient on Ward 11 West, which specialises in HIV and infectious diseases.

“When challenged, you falsely claimed to be from the hospital chaplaincy,” she claimed. “Your behaviour was extremely challenging towards the nurse, who ended the call. Despite being told it was not appropriate to do so, we understand that you subsequently contacted the ward.”

Schapiro said this was “factually wrong” and “lies”, adding: “A family called our office to find out if we can speak to the hospital to arrange for them to visit their mother. We called the hospital, they said no, and that was the end of the conversation. We never tried to gain access.”

In her letter to Schapiro, Clarke said hospitals had “strict restrictions” in place in order to protect both NHS staff and patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Your misrepresentation, attitude and forcefulness with staff in trying to visit patients is unacceptable and as such we have taken the decision to exclude you from attending any of the Trust sites,” Clarke said.

Schapiro said the allegations were “instigated by a number of individuals as part of a pattern to undermine the hard work of the JCC,” adding: “The JCC continues to have a good relationship with all hospitals and offer our support wherever needed.”

The ban comes just weeks after the influential Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC), which represents much of Britain’s Charedi community, apologised to the heads of a different hospital for Schapiro’s behaviour in October.

A letter from a senior UOCH trustee, sent to the Royal London on 15 October and seen by Jewish News, says: “We were deeply distressed to read of your recent experiences with regard to Mr Levi Schapiro and sympathise with the challenges you and your colleagues must have endured.

“It is of the utmost importance that advocacy on behalf of our community is undertaken only by organisations or individuals with the proper competence and experience.

“Unfortunately, there have been a number of recent episodes where advocacy, perhaps intended to benefit patients, undermined the relationship between the health sector and the community.

“This is an accumulation of similar cases where advocacy and networking in all areas of Charedi life went against the community’s best interests. For some time now we have been struggling with this issue which is progressively worsening.”

The letter added that the rabbinate had now agreed that Schapiro “does not have the credentials to undertake communal advocacy, especially in sensitive areas such as health… He does not represent the UOCH or any other group in the Orthodox Jewish community in any form.”

It added: “Patients and their families should be extremely careful when selecting services and are strongly advised to use well-established and responsible bodies such as Rabbi Kernkraut, MARS, Bikur Cholim and Hatzola.

“We respectfully ask health organisations, clinicians, and government bodies to check the credentials and reputation of persons purporting to be community representatives before accepting their status.”

A source close to the UOCH acknowledged the strength of feeling, saying: “It is unheard of for the Union to attack a member of the community in public like this.”

The Royal Free has been told about Schapiro’s denial of wrongdoing and insistence that he was not the person that hospital staff complained about in July. It is yet to reverse the ban.

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