Too many elderly and ill Israelis “fall through the cracks” and do not receive adequate geriatric nursing care when they are no longer eligible for acute medical care in the hospitals.

This according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published on Wednesday – the first release of such a report since Israel joined the OECD a year ago.

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The report, provided by the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, said Israel would have among the highest growth rate in its geriatric population in the coming years compared to other OECD member states.

Called “Help Wanted. Providing and Paying for Long-Term Care,” the report was prepared over the last two years. OECD nations, including Israel, will see a rise in the number of elderly over the age of 80; by 2050, octogenarians and older will constitute about 10 percent of the population. Israel will in less than four decades have an 8% growth in this age group. Only South Korea and Japan will have higher rates among OECD members.

The report recommends providing continuity of care for the elderly, so that after acute medical care ends, patients are not left with unsuitable care for long-term needs. This occurs, the OECD said, because too many institutions and agencies are involved. Geriatric nursing care is not supplied as part of the basket of health services, even though such a recommendation was made by experts over two decades ago.

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said that even before he received the report, he asked officials to work intensively on plans to reorganize geriatric nursing treatment that “will ensure our preparedness for the future.”

He said he would present the plan “in a few days” but did not provide details.

Litzman said Israel needed a geriatric nursing system that would help the patient “take advantage of his rights.”

To do so, his ministry must turn to the Social Welfare and Interior ministries, the National Insurance Institute, the health funds and private insurance companies, he said.

“At a difficult time in his life, the state places bureaucratic difficulties in the way,” the deputy minister said. His plan, he said, would significantly reduce red tape, create continuity of care, reduce financial participation by and the burden on families, raise insurance coverage and incrase the rights of the insured.

“In many measurements, we are way behind, but after the ministry’s plans are implemented, Israel will be in first place,” Litzman said.

Today, between 1% and 2% of the work force in Israel care for the geriatric population; the OECD estimated that this will double by 2050. Foreign workers for this constitute half of all nursing care employees, second only to Italy. Nine in 10 caregivers for the elderly are women, most of them older; this means that turnover is high, reducing the quality of service.

Private funding pays for 60% of expenditures for geriatric nursing care, compared to the OECD average of only 10%, the report said. It added that families of elderly who need nursing care need financial and physical assistance. This will bring out significant savings in public money by postponing or preventing their hospitalization, as they can be treated better and less expensively at home. The costs of long-term hospitalization in geriatric nursing facilities constitute 62% of costs to care for this age group, while only a third of those needing it are actually hospitalized. This, said the OECD, showed the need for strengthening community services and giving help to family members so they can care for them at home.


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