COVID-19 Strains Israel’s Health Services

Israel registered an initial 646 new coronavirus cases during Sunday 12th July, the day after Saturday’s figure of 1,151 new cases, which took the country’s overall number of cases since the outbreak of the pandemic to 38,670.

According to the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 tracker, the death toll rose to 362 on Sunday and the number of patients in a serious condition rose to 151, including 47 on respirators.

A technician carries out a diagnostic test for coronavirusA technician carries out a diagnostic test for coronavirus (photo Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel currently has 19,300 active cases which include 1,893 students and staff in the education system. There are also 28,875 students and staff in self-isolation.

Nurses under pressure

Whilst these numbers seem low compared to many European countries, they are putting great pressure on Israel’s health services.

With more than 750 nurses in quarantine and the demands on them increasing as coronavirus wards are reopened, there is a threat of strike action on Monday 13th July. Nurses claim that staff shortages are making it impossible to continue their work.

Ilana Cohen, chairwoman of the National Association of Nurses, wrote to Israel Katz, the Finance Minister, saying:

“The nurses are collapsing. It is no longer possible [to continue].
The system is down, period. What we need at the moment is manpower.”

She accused the government of abandoning both patients and nurses by opening new coronavirus wards without adding personnel.

Medical labs struggling

Nor is it just Israel’s nurses who are struggling to cope. The country’s health maintenance organisations have warned that they cannot process the number of coronavirus tests currently conducted each day.

On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported that 28,665 tests were conducted in 24 hours – a 93% increase on the highest number of tests conducted just one month earlier.

This led a senior official to protest that:

“We are working way beyond our capabilities. If they won`t limit the number of tests
performed daily, it is only a matter of time until tests will be thrown away
and labs will start collapsing.”

The Health Ministry says it intends to reduce the number of daily tests. Senior officials there are planning to prioritise tests for older people and others thought to be `at risk`.

Investigators too

The scale of the crisis is also overloading Israel’s virus investigations system. New guidelines have been issued to reduce the number of people who are placed in isolation after exposure to a known carrier.

Investigations of patients with symptoms will focus on activity four days prior to being tested, while asymptomatic investigations will focus on activity over ten days prior to the carrier being tested.