The voluntary organization Yad Sarah has expanded its medical-equipment loan service with the purchase of NIS 17 million worth of home-hospitalization equipment – including beds, nursing chairs, oxygen distillers and cranes to lift patients out of beds – to help 4,000 patients stay at home instead of being hospitalized.

In addition, Yad Sarah president (and founder) Uri Lupolianski announced at a Monday press conference in its Jerusalem headquarters that telemedicine will be used to connect medical staffers in hospitals to patients and their caregivers at home. This, he said, will create a “home hospital” larger than any medical center in the country. Called “HousePital,” the program is aimed at reducing hospital stays so that recovery and rehabilitation can be shortened and in some cases, made unnecessary.

But when interviewed, Lupolianski conceded that no formal talks have been held on the subject with the Health Ministry, the four public health funds or hospitals.

In addition, people who live in the periphery will be less likely to benefit from such services, as there are no hospitals nearby that could send staffers quickly or be able to bring in emergencies, without putting them through a long ambulance ride.

Lupolianski told The Jerusalem Post that due to a major turnover of senior officials in the Health Ministry and health funds in recent months, as well as the urgent polio-vaccination campaign, there has been no opportunity yet to discuss HousePital.

The former mayor, who established the organization 36 years ago by lending nebulizers to neighbors whose children suffered from croup and would otherwise have to be hospitalized, said that the hospitalization crisis is worsening every year, and thousands of patients die annually from nosocomial (in-hospital) infections. “Hospitalization units at home allow hospitalization in a healthy and supportive environment.

Three years ago, we launched the purchase of such units, and now I can announce that we have completed the acquisition of over 4,000.”

Yad Sarah already has seven vans that can transfer hospital equipment to patients’ homes, he said. Some 7,000 patients used the service last year. The equipment is stored in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba and Karmiel and can be moved anywhere.

The whole world is struggling with a shortage of beds and hospitalization funding, but Israel – due to its high level of health care and computerization and relatively short distances – has an advantage over other countries, he said.

A senior expert in hospital administration who preferred to remain anonymous told the Post that he was unaware of any discussions of home hospitalization by the ministry or the health funds, even though “in principle it’s an excellent idea.

But it must be economically viable [for the health funds].

If patients are sent home early for home care, their beds will be filled by other patients and more money will be spent. Only if some hospital departments are closed and medical staffers transferred to home care will it be an economical project.”

Other hospitalization experts noted that patients in the center of the country will benefit the most as hospitals are nearby, but when they are far away and do not have adequate support staff for the units, it will be problematic.

Another problem, they said, is that if family members who work (and don’t have medical expertise) are unable to remain with the patient at home, they will have to be replaced by large numbers of trained and adequately prepared caregivers.

A whole coordinated system has to be put into place to make hospitalization at home safe and effective.

The project was endorsed by Dr. Eyran Halpern, director- general of the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, who said at the press conference that Israel’s health system was effective and good despite inadequate resources, but that it must find solutions to the increasing crowding in public hospitals.

The Yad Sarah president said it envisions the connection of homes with telemedicine equipment that can monitor patients’ blood pressure, temperature, sugar level and other information and that hospital call centers will be able to take action. If a patient has already been hospitalized in a department, if he needs to be re-hospitalized, he would not be taken to an emergency department that knows nothing of him but directly to the medical team that previously treated him, said Lupolianski.

He called on the leaders of the health system, including the health minister, hospital directors-general and health fund officials to work together and reach an agreement to institute a large HousePital system together with Yad Sarah.

The event was also attended by former TV star Eyal Peled, who for years hosted the TV show World Tour and suffered a stroke at a young age – five years ago – and is disabled. He volunteered to star in a short video to promote fundraising for Yad Sarah’s HousePital Project.

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