How do you stand in front of a patient and tell him you lack sufficient resources to treat him?
I never would have thought I would have to experience such a moment in my career when I am forced to tell patients that we cannot care for them due to lack of equipment and resources.
I would have never thought I would have to attend a public protest to get the funding needed to purchase equipment for patients. I never thought I would have to fight and convince anybody of the importance of a strong healthcare system.
If Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz fail to wake up and put an end to this disgrace immediately - the collapse of the country’s hospitals and health system will be on their conscience.
Over the passed week, I felt ashamed. For the past 20 years, as commander of the IDF Medical Corps's field hospital, I have led relief missions to some of the world's most disaster stricken areas. In Japan, Nepal, Haiti, and elsewhere.
In those countries I saw what happens when the healthcare system collapses and fails to care for thousands of patients. I saw the pain and frustration of the sick and wounded.
And yet, I was always proud of my country’s healthcare because I knew it would never happen to us.
Over the past year, my belief has wavered. Not because of the country’s medical level or amazing medical staffs. But because of the government's utter lack of understanding of the hospitals' plight.
I'm a doctor. A heart surgeon. I manage the trauma units at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and I have treated thousands of wounded and injured. It is my life's purpose, to treat and assist people, not to fight for budgets and beg for help.
What is happening at Shaare Zedek, Hadassah Hospital, Laniado Hospital, Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center and at Nazareth's three hospitals, is nothing short of a collapse of Israel's medical security.
How can those leading the country sleep at night knowing two million people are deprived of the best care possible due budget quarrels?
How can they sleep knowing we do not have the money to buy catheters for urgent treatments or that we don't have the money to pay the blood bank for urgent blood transfusion doses for our patients?
On the eve of Shavuot this year, 120 wounded arrived in Shaare Zedek’s ER after the collapse of a synagogue stand in Givat Zeev. Such a multi-casualty event requires the mobilization of the entire health system. One patient received no less than 70 blood doses.
What will we do if a similar event occurs in the near future? How are we to care for them with no blood or equipment? If we will not take care of them, who will?
For the past year and a half, we have treated thousands of COVID patients at Shaare Zedek. We were the first to open a dedicated COVID ward in Jerusalem. In all four of Israel's coronavirus waves we were among the three hospitals in the country where the majority of coronavirus patients were hospitalized.
In order to add more beds for patients, we turned the workers' dining room into a COVID ward. We did everything for our patients. Without questions. Because that's our job and our mission.
But unfortunately, we found ourselves waging two wars at once: One against COVID, the other against the government for the sake of our economic survival.
Instead of helping us, the authorities reject our pleas time and time again. It is both painful and infuriating. The saddest part about this whole story is that all Israel's leaders have to do to resolve this farce is to honor the agreement that was signed with us no more than six months ago.
That is something they refuse to do, and they should be ashamed!
Prof. Ofer Merin is the director general of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem