The Health Ministry said it added only 19 beds to treat COVID -19 in hospitals since the coronavirus pandemic began.
In a report submitted to the Knesset State Control Committee, the ministry noted only 154 beds were added to hospitals in the course of the year.
During February, hospitals had 16,302 beds able to treat COVID-19 and in July that number increased to 16,321 beds only. Additional beds were allocated for the treatment of the virus from existing internal medicine wards.
Shaare Zedek Medical Center CEO Prof. Ofer Merin told lawmakers that the internal medicine wards are overcrowded and short on staff, "We canceled operations and sent patient home yesterday," he said, "because the ICU was full and that is shameful. Wards are completely full, and we were forced to divert medical teams from the internal medicine departments to the coronavirus wards."
Merin described the situation as chaotic and added that he was ashamed of the situation in the emergency room.
"I have to pay salaries and have no money because we are not operating as we should," he went on to say, "Independent (non-governmental) hospitals are all in the red and cannot survive. We are worried about paying bills instead of coronavirus.
Zeev Rothstein, CEO of the Hadassah Medical Center also described a dire reality: "The Health Ministry added medical staffing positions enough to man one department and less than half the needed personnel. I hope we do not find ourselves in an extreme crisis but if we would be required to staff two COVID-19 wards we would not be able to with the existing staff."
Rothstein added that he too was taking people away from existing departments to meet the needs of the coronavirus patients.
A senior Health Ministry official told the committee that the shortage in staffing is due to the Finance Ministry's refusal to increase funding.
Head of Nursing in the ministry, Dr. Shoshi Goldberg said that she has 1,500 nurses already trained and prepared to step into hospitals and will have 2,600 more by the end of the month but due to a lack of funding and positions, would not be able to provide them with the necessary qualifications for COVID-19 and ICU work.
The Finance Ministry official charged with financing the health care system said the allocation of funds is the responsibility of the Health Ministry.
Committee chair MK Ofer Shelah said it was clear that the Health Ministry was clueless and had neglected to staff coronavirus wards in the past five months. "Now they are improvising," Shelah said and warned that without proper planning of staffing and beds decisions about closures, in order to protect hospitals from being overrun, cannot be made.