Israel hospitals overloaded, showing first signs of cracking

As nearly 7,000 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus on both Tuesday and Wednesday, some medical professionals say they’re at a breaking point.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As nearly 7,000 Israelis tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday and Wednesday, Israeli hospitals are reaching overload and some medical professionals say they’re at a breaking point.

Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday that Rambam Hospital in Haifa transformed its parking lot into a giant coronavirus ward to keep up with demand.

The parking lot now contains beds, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment, and will be able to serve 770 coronavirus patients.

Dr. Michael Haberthal, director-general of Rambam, told AFP, “It’s extremely unfortunate that we’ve gotten to this place.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Rae Biton, head of the Medical Interns’ Union, testified in a Knesset coronavirus committee meeting that hospitals were operating with just one third of their usual staff, due to high numbers of doctors and nurses entering quarantine and being diverted from other departments to coronavirus wards.

“Unfortunately, the manpower just keeps diminishing,” she told Channel 20 News on Wednesday evening.

“We haven’t been able to find a childcare solution for doctors and nurses, so there are medical professionals sitting at home with their kids and not being utilized in the hospitals.”

“Out of 21 major hospitals in Israel, just five or six provide childcare for staff. And, of course, that’s only for staff who work in the hospitals – meaning that doctors who work in community clinics are left out. So we see many doctors, who are so needed right now, stuck at home.”

Dr. Biton said hospital overcrowding was at the highest rate in years.

“At my hospital, Assuta, we wanted to close the emergency room this week due to overcrowding. Our coronavirus ward stopped accepting new patients, and we’re hearing similar things from other hospitals in the area.”

Dr. Raphael Strugo, head of Magen David Adom, confirmed Dr. Biton’s comments about hospital overcrowding.

He told Channel 20 News that Assuta Hospital in Ashdod and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem informed MDA paramedics that they would not accept new coronavirus patients.

“This is a war, this is an emergency situation,” he said. “I hope the healthcare system will quickly find solutions. Our teams are already breaking from these latest challenges, on top of the nonstop work of the previous six months.”

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On Monday morning, coronavirus czar Dr. Ronni Gamzu released a statement asking hospitals to cancel elective surgeries and focus strictly on treating coronavirus patients.

“I ask you to treat this situation as an emergency situation for the healthcare system. Hospitals must end elective, non-essential procedures,” he wrote.

The declaration sparked outrage from hospital heads, as elective surgeries are the most financially important services provided by medical centers.