Doctors warned Wednesday that not enough testing was done in hospital emergency rooms for the coronavirus.
Two of the verified sufferers of the coronavirus were infected in Israel without known contact with any verified patient and without foreign travel.
Both arrived at the emergency rooms at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv and the Soroko hospital in Beer Sheva respectively and on their own cognizance, displaying symptoms of a fever and a cough. They had to wait a long time before they were tested for the coronavirus because they did not fit the criteria of potential victims of the virus as was announced by the Ministry of Health.
The ministry announced Tuesday that it was changing its directives to medical staff requiring they conduct random testing of more patients when symptoms appear even when no exposure to a known carrier or travel abroad was involved.
A senior Ministry of Health official told Ynet that before testing could be done for the coronavirus, a senior regional medical officer had to approve the test. The same source said, "many swabs have been thrown away because they were not confirmed for testing," and in his estimation, 90% of requests for coronavirus tests have been rejected.
Patient 29, who is an emergency health worker himself, arrived at the emergency room and was hospitalized at an internal medicine ward and later released. The next day he returned to the ER complaining about worsening symptoms and was about to be released once again but a resident doctor insisted he be tested, and he was ultimately confirmed to have been infected by the virus.
Another senior physician in one of the hospitals told Ynet the medical teams are frustrated.
"People who may have the coronavirus are coming into the emergency rooms without any protective gear and are refused testing. When they are later confirmed ill the medical teams have to be quarantined. The only reason tests are not conducted is money," he said claiming that if the test cost one shekel – there would be no need to seek permission from senior officials.
The current criteria, he added, is outdated and irrelevant. "There are community infected cases so asking people if the recently entered the country is wrong." Claiming there are more cases in out there in the community, "if you don't test you don't know," he said.
Dr. Pinchas Halpern, head of Emergency Medicine at Ichilov Hospital said: "Anyone exhibiting respiratory symptoms is suspect and that is how we are now treating these cases. We cover their faces with masks and examine them in an isolated location in the ER."
Halpern said there is no hospital in Israel that has the capacity to hospitalize everyone with a fever in intensive care, but there is also no need to do so.
Professor Hagai Levin of the Health Organization explained there is no way to assess all Israelis but there is more lab availability to speed up testing and these facilities must be deployed with the assistance of more personnel and resources. "You cannot test everyone who has a cough, but you should test those who come into the hospital emergency rooms," he said.
Others believe the containment period for the coronavirus spread is not yet over.
Dr. Doron Netzer, who heads community medicine in Israel's largest HMO, believes that when this period of containment is over and community spread begins, then local clinics "will have to step up and treat most cases with home care to reduce the load on hospitals."
The ministry of health said it is updating protocols for testing and working to increase the amount of testing being done each day.
First published: 19:14, 03.11.20