Israel Health Ministry prepares for mass hospitalizations

Clearing out two small hospitals just for coronavirus patients and using small hotels near hospitals are the next stages.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As the number of people infected with the coronavirus steadily rises in Israel, the Ministry of Health has put into effect a multistage plan to deal with mass hospitalizations, Israel Hayom reported on Sunday.

What is done depends on how many people are ill. With just under 1,000 cases reported as of Sunday morning, the first two stages have already been realized.

The first was setting up isolation units in the hospitals for 30-50 patients. The second was opening an additional quarantine department in every hospital, along with the cancellation of all elective surgeries.

Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv also has completed building an underground hospital that has the capacity to care for up to 40 patients in critical condition who need to be on ventilators.

This is in addition to the two “Corona hotels” that have already been opened for light cases in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the Ashkelon soldiers’ vacation village that has been turned into a military facility for soldiers who have come down with the virus. Three more hotels (not two, as was previously planned) are being prepared to house victims as well.

The third stage, which is for a situation of up to 1,400 cases, has just begun to be carried out. As a large portion of the victims are elderly, 70 beds are being added to the Shmuel Harofe Geriatric hospital in Be’er Yaakov, and 350 beds to the Geriatric Center in Rishon Lezion.

According to the report, the families of 71 current patients in the Rishon facility have objected to the plan and legal steps are being taken to force the issue. The regional court in Lod will hear the case on Sunday.

At Stage 4 (up to 1,800 cases), two small hospitals which have 200 beds each, will transfer all other patients to other facilities and be used exclusively for coronavirus victims. In addition, all surgeries in private hospitals will be cancelled so that the public hospitals can refer needed operations to their facilities instead.

Stage 5 is if Israel gets to the point that over 2,000 people are ill. Then, small hotels that are in the vicinity of the hospitals will be used as in-patient facilities.

The health authorities have repeatedly stressed that the need to isolate those who are ill from those who are healthy is paramount. Prof. Ehud Dodson, CEO of the Clalit Health Fund that runs seven public hospitals in the country, put the danger in stark terms, according to the report.

“From what we’ve seen in other countries like Spain and France, it could be that within 10 days to two weeks we will also have thousands of patients,” he said.

“In my opinion, the bottleneck is the [medical] staff: There’s a limited number of anesthesiologists and emergency specialists, and that’s the reason we’re doing everything we can to flatten the curve in the growth of those infected.”