Israel lacking enough hospital beds, says report

Israel remains near the bottom of the list of 34 OECD countries in this measure – there are 1.87 beds per 1,000 Israelis, compared to an average of 3.4.

October 28, 2014 06:51
2 minute read.

Man lying in a hospital bed at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem [illustrative].. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The number of general hospital beds in Israel rose by 699 in comparison to the population growth during the last four-and-a-half years, but is not keeping up with it, according to a report published by the Health Ministry on Tuesday.

The report does not refer to actual beds, but to the number funded and licensed beds, complete with doctors and nurses, to treat patients.

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Israel remains near the bottom of the list of 34 OECD countries in this measure – there are 1.87 beds per 1,000 Israelis, compared to an average of 3.4 in the rest of the OECD nations. In 2005, there were 2.05 beds per 1,000 people, and last year there were 1.9 beds, marking a decline in beds compared to the population growth. The shortage of medical personnel and the lack of public money invested in the system continue to limit expansion.

The 33-page statistical report was written by Stavit Hallel and Ziona Haklai of the Health Ministry’s information branch, and consists mostly of graphs and tables.

The hospital departments that were allocated additional beds were internal medicine (238), intensive care (69), pediatrics (149), surgery (33), and obstetrics (196), as well as beds for patients under observation (14).

Jerusalem received a net increase of 230 more beds – Shaare Zedek Medical Center added 278 beds in its main building, but Bikur Cholim Hospital, which it runs, lost 101 beds between 2013 and May 2014 as its activities were reduced.

As a result of the lack of beds, the average hospital stay is shorter, and because patients usually don’t remain hospitalized long enough, they often get sick again and have to be re-hospitalized.

The occupancy rates in Israeli hospitals are also much higher than in the rest of OECD countries, coming close to 100 percent on average, increasing the risk of in-hospital infections.

The lack of hospital beds primarily affects disadvantaged populations, including the elderly and the poor, and those living in the geographic and socioeconomic periphery of the country.

The relative lack of public hospital facilities also promotes the growth of private hospitals and the use of private and supplementary health insurance.

The number of psychiatric beds was 3,493 last May – 0.43 beds per 1,000 – an increase of 42 compared to five years ago. There was a 7% decline in the number of beds between 2009 and 2012, and this partially reflects the tendency to treat more psychiatric patients in the community, as well as the growth in the population.

As for beds for the chronically ill, especially the elderly, there were almost 25,000 such beds; this figure represented a decline compared to the increase and the aging of the population. The rate of rehabilitation beds also declined since 2009 by 9%.

In actual figures, the number of emergency department beds rose by 485 compared to 2009, dialysis beds by 1,386, operating theater beds by 434, delivery room beds by 37 and neonatal beds by 191. The country also offered 977 beds for treatment of drug addicts this year.

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