Israeli hospitals are trapped in a zero sum game

Opinion: The government must end the façade that the coronavirus crisis is about to end, and do something to help the medical facilities who are waging a losing war to save the lives of their patients while trying to survive themselves

Sarit Rosenblum|
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced to the heads of dozens of small businesses that the coronavirus pandemic in Israel is finally in its final phase.
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  • This celebratory yet deluded declaration is clear proof that Netanyahu hasn’t bothered to visit one of Israel’s many overburdened, struggling hospitals in a long while.
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    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The fact is that while the prime minister was busy flinging around delusional promises ahead of his umpteenth election campaign, Israel’s hospitals are scrabbling to save the lives of their many, many patients.
    One such patient was Moshe Harizi, who died on Friday because the hospital staff caring for him were too overburdened to notice that his ventilation tube has disconnected.
    This is just terrible tragedy out of many. Patients are dying alone in the dark, away from their families and without anyone to watch over them.
    Even the hospital directors, who usually fight tooth and nail to preserve the healthcare system’s good name, admit that Harizi will not be the last to perish due to the massive load placed on Israel’s coronavirus wards.
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    מחלקת הקורונה באיכילוב
    מחלקת הקורונה באיכילוב
    The coronavirus ward at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Ziv Koren)
    A study jointly conducted by the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University showed that hospital mortality rates increase significantly when there are more than 500 patients in serious condition.
    The study further notes that one in every four or five patients who succumbed to the virus would have likely survived had Israel's hospitals been less crowded.
    As of Monday, Israel had 1,130 COVID-19 patients in serious condition, of whom 273 were connected to ventilators. During Israel’s second coronavirus wave, the healthcare system raised red flags when the total number of patients in serious condition approached the 800 mark.
    That is without even mentioning 80,000 patients being taken care of at home by their respective health funds.
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    מחלקת קורונה בית חולים הלל יפה חדרה
    מחלקת קורונה בית חולים הלל יפה חדרה
    Treating COVID-19 patients at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    This huge number of patients and severe shortage in manpower means only one thing.
    The hospitals have no choice but to divert staff from departments that have nothing to do with coronavirus to care for COVID patients, which obviously hurts the quality of treatment many of them receive.
    Israel is standing on the precipice of a catastrophe due to the government's latest failures in managing the pandemic, leading to patient numbers surging unabated for weeks.
    And although it was the government that was too late in taking the necessary steps to stem the surge in infections, hospital managers are also to blame for this parlous situation.
    Hospital incomes have been dealt a devastating blow in the past year and hospital directors are vehemently opposed to reducing non-urgent cases that bring in money, something could free up additional medical staff to care for coronavirus patients.
    This is why several hospitals have already refused to admit additional coronavirus patients from other overburdened medical facilities.
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    חולה קורונה מחלקת קורונה צוות רפואי רופאים ציוד מגן ב בית החולים שערי צדק ירושלים
    חולה קורונה מחלקת קורונה צוות רפואי רופאים ציוד מגן ב בית החולים שערי צדק ירושלים
    The coronavirus ward at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AP)
    Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital, where Moshe Harizi died, has pledged to reduce its elective treatments, but for Harizi and his family it is too late.
    This has got to end. It is unthinkable that patients will lose their lives due to financial considerations.
    The hospitals are fighting for both the lives of their patients and for their own continued activity, a zero sum game that cannot be allowed to continue for even a single day more.
    It is up to the country to divert the necessary funds so the hospitals can concentrate on nothing else but saving lives.
    Israel’s third closure is working, albeit extremely slowly, and the fight against the coronavirus is becoming more and more difficult with each passing day.
    Talk about life returning to normal is nothing but a shameless façade, since things are bound to get worse before they get better.
    True, we are now again in election season, but we must hold firm until the inoculations start doing their work so we can finally beat the coronavirus pandemic.
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