ציון חגי
Prof. Zion Hagay
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Sheba Medical Center's COVID-19 ward

Israel's government must ask its healthcare workers for forgiveness

Opinion: Mr. Bennett, we should live alongside the pandemic, but we cannot live alongside indifference; we must not 'contain' the dead, we must not ignore the health system’s great hardships you yourself know so well

Prof. Zion Hagay |
Published: 09.14.21, 23:32
Yom Kippur, a holy day of repentance and atonement, is the perfect day for the government to ask for forgiveness.
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  • Forgiveness from the patients, from the nurses and doctors, and from the entire Israeli public.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    חצאים נפתלי בנט מחלקת קורונה
    חצאים נפתלי בנט מחלקת קורונה
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Sheba Medical Center's COVID-19 ward
    (Photo: EPA, Tal Shahar)
    Forgiveness for letting the country’s health system deal with constant shortages in hospital beds and manpower. Forgiveness for the impossible workload and the long wait times.
    Forgiveness for ambitious plans to strengthen the public healthcare system that never received any funding. Forgiveness for promising to bring change, never having intended to follow through.
    Your speeches about hiring hundreds and even thousands more staffers amounted to cumbersome mechanisms, marred with caveats, which on average added maybe three more doctors per hospital at best.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מחלקת קורונה בבית החולים ברזילי באשקלון
    מחלקת קורונה בבית החולים ברזילי באשקלון
    Medical staffers in Barzilai Medical Center's coronavirus ward
    (Photo: AP)
    Adding more doctors requires substantially increasing the annual quota of medical students in Israel, allowing late retirement for doctors, and doing what our government never excelled at — planning for the long run.
    You should say you're sorry to all those medical staffers who were told by treasury clerks that the time they spent in quarantine after coming into contact with patients at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic was deducted from their sick days.
    Sorry for your cynical indifference just moments after you cheered for us from your balconies. We've never asked for all that fanfare, just that you let us do our jobs without placing hurdles in our way and under proper conditions.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מחלקת הקורונה בבית החולים שיבא, תל השומר
    מחלקת הקורונה בבית החולים שיבא, תל השומר
    Sheba Medical Center's COVID-19 ward
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    Granted, the new government was established only recently and the system's woes are at least two decades old. But whoever promises to change and fix the system must do some soul-searching first before they start pulling rabbits out of their sleeves.
    All the system’s problems, as well their solutions and required budgets, have long been on the table. Whoever seeks a true reform, needs just to sit down with the relevant actors and bravely lead a new agenda.
    The state budget only passed its first reading in Knesset and there is still plenty of time to make the required amendments before it is ratified in November.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מחלקת קורונה בביה"ח הדסה עין כרם
    מחלקת קורונה בביה"ח הדסה עין כרם
    Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital's coronavirus ward
    (Photo: Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rightly chose to avoid another lockdown and live alongside the virus with only some restrictions and with as many vaccines and tests as possible. This is the right approach, as long as the healthcare system's infrastructure allows it. But unfortunately, that is not the case.
    Dozens die from COVID-19 every day. Over 900 Israelis have perished since the beginning of August alone — although they don't get as much attention these days. At least some cases could have ended differently if hospitals were better equipped and better staffed. If only the government had heeded our warnings.
    Mr. Bennett, we should live alongside the pandemic, but we cannot live alongside indifference. We must not “contain” the dead, we must not ignore the health system’s great hardships you yourself know so well.
    It is still not too late to do the right thing. And you know what? It's even better than saying you're sorry.

    Prof. Zion Hagay is chairman of the Israel Medical Association.
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