Race for ventilators: Israel seeks 5,000 for worst-case scenario

The number of ventilated patients is expected to rise drastically. The Health Ministry fears an Italy-like scenario.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel urgently needs more ventilators. That’s the message coming out of the Health Ministry, repeating last week’s warning that it would need at least 5,000 ventilators to cope with the crisis.

“We’re drawing up plans for an event in which we have 5,000 [sick] on ventilators. That’s saying that all the beds in the hospitals in the State of Israel will be taken for the good of the corona patients,” Dr. Vered Ezra, head of the Medical Management Department of the Ministry of Health, said on Sunday to reporters.

“This is indeed a terrible scenario and I have been losing much sleep over it because I don’t know how we would cope,” she said.

Last week, the ministry’s director general, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, said that Israel had only 2,864 available ventilators, including those belonging to the Army.

Currently, the numbers look manageable. As of Sunday night, there were 59 people on ventilators in Israel. However, as Yediot Ahronot points out, there were 43 during the day, a jump of 37 percent in only 12 hours. On Thursday, the number stood at 37.

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“The jump in the number of seriously ill and those on ventilators in the last days worries me very much. Its likely to put pressure on the system,” Ezra said.

The Health Ministry is deathly afraid of the situation in Italy, and now Spain, playing out in Israel, in which the number of seriously ill outpaces the number of ventilators, forcing medical staff to choose who will receive the potentially life-saving machines.

In a letter to all of Israel’s hospital directors, Dr. Ezra told them to prepare a third of their beds for ventilated patients.

The Health Ministry is allocating 65,000 shekels per bed for preparations, Israel Hayom reports. It also demanded that the hospitals come up with a plan and timeline for carrying out its recommendations.

The ministry’s demands met with pushback from Prof. Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of Sheba Medical Center and acting director of Sheba General Hospital at Tel Hashomer, who appeared to take issue with the ministry putting the onus on the hospitals.

He said, “The hospitals will continue to provide an answer to heart patients, stroke and other diseases. It’s on the Health Ministry to regulate the hospitalization response of the State of Israel.”

The number of corona cases in Israel topped 4,300 on Monday as a 16th patient died.