Many coronavirus patients in Israel who are supposed to be hospitalized in dedicated quarantine areas are actually being treated in internal wards of Israeli hospitals, a Ynet investigation revealed Tuesday.
On Monday evening it was confirmed that 11 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in Israel to 50. As a result, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government has decided to quarantine anyone arriving from overseas for 14 days.
The Health Ministry has ordered for all coronavirus patients in the country to be treated only in negative pressure rooms, an isolation technique used in medical centers.
Most such rooms, however, are located inside the hospitals and not in dedicated quarantine areas, set up at the start of the outbreak at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv and other medical centers across Israel.
Negative pressure rooms are normally occupied by elderly patients, making them vulnerable to accidentally contracting the virus.
Members of one family were shocked to discover on Monday that in a hospital unit where their elderly relative is being treated, an isolated room has been set up where a suspected coronavirus patient is now hospitalized.
"The same medical and nursing staff that treat the [coronavirus] patient also treat the regular patients,” said the son of the elderly patient. “Another quarantined patient was found wandering the halls of the unit and was returned to her room only after the arrival of security personnel.”
A son of another elderly and ill patient hospitalized in a unit where an Israeli with COVID-19 is being treated, said his frail father is afraid he will not make it out alive. "My father is an elderly and complex patient ... and I cannot find the words to calm him down."
Medical staff at the hospitals said they strongly oppose the Health Ministry's decision to allow the coronavirus patients to be treated in internal wards. "Despite the quarantine, the infection can still spread,” said one medial official. “The smallest mistake, for example a nurse who goes from treating one patient to another, and it [the virus] is going to spread like wildfire.”
Prof. Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, said he actually agreed with the Health Ministry’s guidelines. "According to the most stringent guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., coronavirus patients must be hospitalized in a room with negative air pressure,” he said.
“I think one should not be nervous about [coronavirus] patients being in internal wards, where patients with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are also treated.”
"Negative pressure rooms are the safest rooms for hospitalizing patients with infectious diseases, including coronavirus,” said the Health Ministry in a statement. “If one adheres to the guidelines, other patients and medical staff would be protected."