Israeli town protests as elderly pushed out to make way for corona patients

Anticipating an influx of sick, the Ministry of Health decided to clear out geriatric centers for coronavirus patients.

By Lauren Marcus, Israel World News

On Thursday morning, for the second day in a row, families of elderly patients protested at the entrance of the Shoham Integrated Geriatric Center in Pardes Hanna, Israel.

The protesters held signs saying “Scandal in the making,” “Don’t displace Holocaust survivors for corona patients,” and “Tired of being second class citizens.”

When speaking to reporters from Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, the protesters said the displacement of their relatives was “an agonizing death sentence” and asked, “Who is looking out for our Holocaust survivor parents?”

Family members said they recently discovered that the Ministry of Health had made the decision in secret to move patients from geriatric facilities throughout Israel, without consulting or informing their relatives.

The decision to move the elderly has caused much anger and frustration among families, who feel that the state is abandoning their loved ones for the benefit of coronavirus patients.

Many of the residents in the Shoham Integrated Geriatric Center are Holocaust survivors, and most have been living in the complex for over a decade.

“We will not let them wheel sick, elderly people out of this place, against their will. We will battle and protest,” said Dikla and Shlomi, whose father has lived in the facility for six years.

The Pardes Hanna-Karkur Local Council also opposes moving the patients. Head of the Council Hagar Perry-Yegor said,

“This decision means that we are preparing to move more than 100 patients, who are mentally frail, elderly people, elsewhere. And in fact, we are putting elderly patients at risk who will remain in the complex. I demand that the prime minister and the Ministry of Health stop this decision.”

MK Meirav Cohen (Blue and White) spoke out on behalf of the families. “I can’t understand the logic behind displacing sick, elderly people, who are in an extremely high risk group these days. Every change to their daily schedule can place their lives in danger. These are the people we’re choosing to endanger? They will die not from coronavirus, but from carelessness.”

Yediot Ahronot spoke to several protesters at the entrance to Shoham on Wednesday, including Nitzan, whose Holocaust survivor mother is scheduled to be moved from the facility. “To evacuate my mother from here is simply a death sentence for her – she will not last,” he said.

Effie, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor Rebecca Rosenberg’s only son, voiced his concern and anger to Yediot Ahronot. “Mom told me that she wants to live the rest of her days in this facility and that she will not go anywhere else.”

On Wednesday, ambulances arrived at the institution to begin evacuating the elderly. The patients’ children blocked the gates and prevented the ambulances from entering.

Effie said, “My mother will not survive a move. She can’t adapt to another place at the age of 100.”

Marina Galapgatt, whose grandmother is being treated in a geriatric facility in Rishon Lezion, said, “To take my grandmother and the elderly out of the place that gave them amazing care is to simply to decide to send them to their deaths.”

Rishon Lezion Mayor Raz Kinstlich spoke out in support of the patients and their families. “The Ministry of Health is revealing their true attitude towards the elderly, who deserve to live their years in a respectful place that gives them care,” he said.

Netanya Mayor Miriam Fairberg-Farmer also spoke out against the Ministry of Health’s decision to displace 50 elderly and mentally ill patients living in the city’s Dorot Medical Center to clear beds for coronavirus patients.

“This is a population of elderly people, some of whom are also mentally frail. Anyone who has worked in geriatrics or has ever cared for an elderly family member knows that one of the most important factors for their peace of mind and quality of life is consistency,” said Fairberg.

“Moving them elsewhere can have serious and far-reaching consequences for the elderly, including significant injuries to their health, and certainly disturbs their peace of mind.”

The Ministry of Health said in a statement: “Our experts estimate that the number of patients needing hospitalization, which is currently in the hundreds, will soon rise to the thousands. The state must prepare appropriate and urgently needed solutions for the treatment and hospitalization of coronavirus patients. These solutions include, among other things, the allocation of additional hospitalization options to its patients. We are also exploring other solutions such as hotels. “