‘Stop treating cancer patients?’: Israeli hospitals irate at orders to cut non-corona care

“We are going to have to start choosing who we can treat and who we cannot,” a senior health official warned.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday instructed all hospitals to prepare to cut non-coronavirus care to no more than  20 percent, drawing criticism from some medical officials who say the new policy could put the seriously ill at risk, Ynet reports.

The ministry sent a letter to all hospital administrators ordering that within the next three weeks 80 percent of all hospital beds are to be dedicated to coronavirus patients.

According to the instructions, 30 percent of beds would be assigned to coronavirus patients on ventilators, 50 percent of beds to coronavirus patients not on ventilators, and the remaining 20 percent for non-coronavirus patients.

“We are going to have to start choosing who we can treat and who we cannot,” a senior health official warned on Wednesday. “What are we to do? Stop treating cancer patients? This is intolerable.”

A hospital administrator said, “I understand the need for beds to treat coronavirus patients, but cutting back on elective surgery that has been in place for a week already will come at a terrible cost.”

“We need to leave 50% of beds for other seriously ill patients … any less than that is criminal,” he said, adding, “Are we not to treat strokes and heart failure? Are we not to operate on cancer patients?”

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The administrator said hospitals should have been consulted first, saying, “It is wrong to make us decide who to treat because of an ill-advised policy that was taken without proper consideration.”

On Sunday, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel published a study titled Anticipating the Total Mortality Impact of Coronavirus in Israel.

The study’s authors, Prof. Alex Weinreb and Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, warn that in addition to the direct mortality from the virus, it will almost certainly have indirect “collateral” mortality effects due to the reallocation of medical resources which are limited to start.

“We expect mortality rates from other causes to rise as hospitalization of coronavirus patients increases. The Israeli hospital system is deficient to begin with, as shown by another Taub Center study published a few months ago,” said Weinreb and Chernichovsky.