Israeli medical officials have criticized the Heath Ministry's order to significantly reduce non-coronavirus related treatments in order to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, saying the move would put people suffering from serious illnesses at risk.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday instructed all hospitals to prepare to cut non-COVID-19 care to no more than 20% within three weeks, causing concern that patients suffering from cancer, heart disease, strokes, and other serious ailments will be left untreated.
In a letter sent to all hospital administrators, the ministry demands that within the next three weeks 80% of all hospital beds be dedicated to patients suffering from COVID-19.
According to the instructions, 30% of the beds would be assigned to patients suffering from moderate to serious symptoms and who are hooked-up to ventilators, while 50% would be assigned to coronavirus patients not attached to ventilator machines.
Last week hospitals were told to prepare for a scenario of at least 5000 coronavirus patients in need of ventilator support. If this prognosis materializes, even patients suffering from terminal illnesses would not be able to receive treatment at hospitals.
A senior health official warned on Wednesday that cancer wards are already in full capacity while cardiac intensive care units and heart surgery are continuing to operate.
"We are going to have to start choosing who we can treat and who we cannot," the official said, "what are we to do? Stop treating cancer patients? This is intolerable."
One hospital administrator said his medical center will not be able to provide the most basic care to its patients.
"I understand the need for beds to treat coronavirus patients but cutting back on elective surgery that has been in place for a week already, will come at a terrible cost," he said. "We need to leave 50% of beds for other seriously ill patients ... any less than that is criminal," he added.
"Are we not to treat strokes and heart failure? Are we not to operate on cancer patients?"
Finally, the administrator claimed hospitals should have been consulted before such extreme measures were decided upon saying, "It is wrong to make us decide who to treat because of an ill-advised policy that was taken without proper consideration."