This is the scenario that hospital administrators have been instructed to prepare for this winter in light of the spreading H1N1 virus epidemic: 14,000 dead, an equal number of patients hospitalized at the peak of the outbreak, some 75,000 patients hospitalized during a two-month wave of the disease, and some 1.8 million sick people visiting their local HMOs. According to the scenario, only 5% of people ill with the virus will go to the hospital.
The scenario was sent to hospitals by Dr. Danny Laor, head of the Health Ministry's Emergency Unit, and in light of these numbers, administrators have been asked to form an action plan in preparation for the coming winter. Each hospital head was given an estimate of the number of patients expected in their sector.
Sunday evening, Channel 10 reported of a document that states that the number of people to die of the H1N1 virus will reach 14,000. The document in question was written at the end of July, and serves as the basis for the hospitals' preparation for the upcoming winter.
"In preparation for the winter of 2009, the possibility of increased infection with the H1N1 flu virus should be taken into account, as should the possibility of a new combined variation (of the virus)," the scenario reads. According to the document, hospitals should prepare for widespread infection and illness among their own medical staff as well.
Hospitals have been advised to prepare plans for expanding their intensive care units in order to keep up with the high number of patients in need of artificial respiration, and to determine areas meant for the admission of the many patients expected to arrive.
Hospitals were also instructed to train their medical staff on ways to defend themselves from the virus, and prepare plans for discharging patients into the community or into geriatric institutions, in order to make room for new patients and for "handling deceased patients".
Next month the entire health establishment will take part in a seminar in preparation for combating the flu this winter.
The letter to hospital administrators did not specify how the estimated number of 14,000 deceased patients was reached, and a Health Ministry estimate recently presented to the Knesset's Health Committee expected between 700 and 1,000 to die of the flu, a number no higher than that of casualties from the regular winter flu.
However, Health Ministry estimates from 2005 regarding a possible flu pandemic include scenarios with similar numbers. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published similar estimates.