Nurses’ error blamed for corona deaths at Israeli hospital

An internal report revealed that untrained personnel were dealing with the patients in ICU.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An internal investigation into how the Wolfson Medical Center dealt with coronavirus patients in the first wave revealed that some of the 21 deaths that occurred were due to nurses’ errors and not the severity of their condition, Israel Hayom reported exclusively Wednesday.

In what the article called an “unprecedented” report by Dr. Arie Soroksky, head of the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, he charged that one of the most serious problems in the treatment of the approximately 120 corona patients who were isolated in a special department was that untrained personnel were used.

“Unskilled nursing staff cared for severely ill and respiratory patients,” he wrote in a letter sent not only to the hospital administrator, but also to the director-general and head of the hospitals department of the Health Ministry. This “caused failures in the ongoing care and supervision of the patients.”

“In my 25 years of work in emergency care,” he added, “I never encountered such mistakes, and the occurrence of these kinds of errors attest to extremely poor skill and lack of professionalism.”

The coronavirus ward was staffed by a combination of regular nurses from internal medicine wards and ICU nurses. Although the specialist staff tried to train the others, he wrote, the supplemental teams changed often, and the result was that “most of the time the nursing staff… was new and inexperienced.”

According to Soroksky, at least one ICU nurse was always on duty, and “she physically prevented many mistakes that could have ended with many additional deaths.”

Soroksky also castigated the regular nurses in general for lacking a high work ethic, fearing to enter the ward and sometimes leaving it so that only the ICU nurse was left to care for the severely ill patients for hours at a time.

The veteran doctor emphasized that his report was meant more to warn about the future than complain about the past, as it was very possible that the coming winter could bring a double load of patients due to seasonal flu and the coronavirus.

Immediate improvement and changes were needed in such areas as professional training so that the new patients would get proper care, he says.

A senior nurse at Wolfson admitted that there were severe problems in the facility.

“It’s true that the training of nurses in caring for the ventilated patients was very late and insufficient,” she told Israel Hayom.

“There was a feeling in the hospital that the administration was ‘shooting from the hip.’ In addition, it’s very hard to recruit quality personnel to Wolfson, and this very seriously impacts the quality of care and really endangers the patients, so the [level of] fear in the hospital is high.”

The problem of unqualified personnel is not limited to one hospital in Israel or even to the country as a whole.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that a respiratory therapist in a New York-area hospital “documented 50 patients who died in part due to improper ventilator settings by untrained staff.” The therapist, Rio Flores, pointed out that “respiratory therapy is a specialized job that requires a license and at least two years of training.”

Wolfson Hospital reacted in a statement, saying that it “provides the best and most dedicated care to patients by experienced and professional teams.”

“As is known, this is a virus that Wolfson, like the whole world, is still learning about how to provide solutions to its various expressions,” it said. It added that Soroksky’s letter was meant for “self-improvement” and that it was his own opinion that was “neither validated nor founded.”

“Of course, drawing conclusions and constant learning is the way of life of all staff at the Wolfson Medical Center on a routine basis, and certainly during the corona epidemic,” the statement said.