Israel’s Hospitals Warn of Collapse as Gov’t Mulls Tighter COVID Restrictions
Spreading virus drives health system into uncharted territory
The Israeli government’s corona cabinet convened on Tuesday in yet another emergency session, to decide whether COVID-related restrictions, passed only last week, should be tightened as infections continue to mount and dozens die on a daily basis.
The ministers are expected to shut down more places of business throughout the country and place additional limits on travel between communities. The main item on the agenda, recommended strongly by health officials, is to severely limit the number of participants allowed in religious ceremonies, as experts home in on Yom Kippur, when millions congregate in synagogues for hours on end, as a potential health calamity.
Judaism’s holiest day begins on Sunday evening.
This past Monday, the Health Ministry mistakenly stated that several major medical centers had exceeded their maximum capacity in treating coronavirus patients, prompting some hospital managers to refute the claim.
Still, hospital officials across the country told The Media Line Tuesday that scenes of exhausted COVID-19 wards and overworked staffs are only a matter of time.
We’re bursting at the seams. We’ve set aside some rooms in our geriatric ward. We’ve also converted a second underground parking lot, in addition to the first which is active already, for hundreds of future corona patients
“We’re bursting at the seams,” Steve Walz, head of media relations at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, told The Media Line. “We’ve set aside some rooms in our geriatric ward. We’ve also converted a second underground parking lot, in addition to the first which is active already, for hundreds of future corona patients.”
According to Walz, the hospital’s coronavirus ward is currently at half capacity, but that is expected to change quickly, and already poses difficulties.
“We’re trying to keep the general hospital open and functioning. That’s the real challenge. Doctors and nurses can’t be in two places at once. We’re trying to hang on and stave off things till winter, when we get the double whammy, the “twindemic” of regular flu patients and coronavirus ones,” he says.
Teams are working around the clock. We’ve closed one general ward and transferred its team to the corona wards. If we need to open another corona ward, we’ll have to shut down more general wards. The crews are exhausted
At Barzilai Medical Center in the southern city of Ashkelon, the situation is even direr. “We have two corona wards and one emergency corona ward. Of 55 total beds, 40 are occupied by patients. More than half of those are in critical or serious condition,” details Barzilai spokesperson Roxane Kozikaro.
“Teams are working around the clock. We’ve closed one general ward and transferred its team to the corona wards. If we need to open another corona ward, we’ll have to shut down more general wards. The crews are exhausted,” she told The Media Line.
Over the past week, more than 130 people have died in Israel of the disease. The infection rate once again reaching record figures on Monday, as close to 12% of those tested were found positive for the virus. It is expected that by the end of the month, more than a thousand Israelis will be in serious condition.
Still, other government ministries remain wary of imposing extensive restrictions on the workplace. Finance Ministry Director-General Keren Turner warned Tuesday that “further restrictions … will cost the market billions of dollars,” saying the damage such a move would inflict would be “irreparable.”
Most of our patients are in serious to critical condition. We’re on the verge of collapse. Our emergency ward is almost full
“We are at 80% capacity right now,” warns Eli Sabti, spokesperson of Ziv Medical Center in the Galilee town of Safed. “Most of our patients are in serious to critical condition. We’re on the verge of collapse. Our emergency ward is almost full.”
On Wednesday, the government’s coronavirus “czar,” Ronni Gamzu, is expected to visit Safed and survey the hospital’s situation. “We’ll raise all our concerns with him. He’s been great with us so far,” Sabti told The Media Line.
Nearly all of the medical staffs’ criticism has been pointed in recent months not at Gamzu and his team of advisers, but toward the government.
“They haven’t paid any of the public hospitals. The government keeps saying they’ll add to the budget, but none of the hospitals has had the extra money given to us to hire more staff,” complains Walz, who explained that hiring the additional doctors and nurses needed to handle the outbreak was impossible without state aid.
“It takes a lot of manpower, and we don’t have it – the government hasn’t paid any of the hospitals for even the first round [of infections in March and April]. Every hospital is minus hundreds of millions of shekels, including us. It can’t continue this way.”