Israel’s winter coronavirus forecast: ‘Catastrophe’

“Already today there’s an overload, but we haven’t yet experienced a full winter with corona running wild,” said the chairwoman of the lab workers’ association.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s public sector lab workers warn that this winter a manpower shortage will create long delays for test results, Yediot Ahronot reports on Tuesday.

“In the winter it will be a catastrophe that we won’t be able to stand up to,” said Esther Admon, chairwoman of Israel’s Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists, and Laboratory Workers.

A strike involving two thousand lab technicians just ended. The strike, which began on Aug. 30 in hospitals, HMOs and labs across the country, was to protest the technicians’ low pay and working conditions.

The lab workers are now expressing fears about the coming winter, and not for labs that test for corona, but for all the other diseases. In the winter, there’s an upsurge in testing for a host of illnesses and the labs have already been dealing with a shrinking workforce while facing a growing workload.

A 2019 report found that over the last decade Israel saw a 9% drop from 2010 in the number of lab technicians, Yediot reports. The main reason is the low pay in comparison to the rise of private labs.

“The ones who’ll be hurt this winter will be the patients,” Admon told Yediot. “In the winter the number of tests double, mainly tests of bacteria and viruses like pneumonia, ear and throat infections and infections in hospitals. Already today there’s an overload, but we haven’t yet experienced a full winter with corona running wild.”

She said this would impact corona testing as well and people will not only have to wait longer, but as a result of those waits may need to be tested again “because for every test there’s a window of time to analyze it.”

“Blood count, for example, if you don’t enter it to the lab in four hours – it’s already not stable,” she told Yediot.

The labs will end up prioritizing tests based on other factors. Those in hospitals will be given preferential treatment over those coming from HMOs. Chronic patients who need follow-up testing will also be treated preferentially, Admon said.