The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee called on the Finance and Health ministries on Tuesday to prepare an urgent national plan to cope with the shortfall of some 500 intensive care beds.
Currently, hospitals are forced to keep 55 percent to 80% of patients attached to respirators in ordinary wards rather than in intensive care units with larger numbers of specially trained nurses and doctors and more advanced equipment.
Committee chairman MK Moshe Sharoni (Gil Pensioners Party) said the country's population had grown by more than a million people in the last seven years, but that hospital intensive care units had not expanded. Only 14 ICU beds have been added since 2000, he said, and 500 more are needed. As a result, many seriously ill patients do not get the treatment they need, and some of them die as a result, he said.
The Health Ministry has admits this is a serious problem, but the Treasury has balked at increasing budgets to address the issue.
Dr. Michael Dor, head of the Health Ministry's general medical branch, said that two years ago, his office was asked to prepare short-, medium- and long-term plans for intensive care beds, but the Treasury "refused to add even one bed. There is a serious budgetary problem related to medical manpower and equipment. We demand immediate implementation of our plan and ongoing updating of the budget to cope with the growing and ageing of the population."
Reuven Kogan, a representative of the Treasury's budgets division, said the shortage of intensive care beds was "strange, as we were not told about this in the past."
MK Uri Ariel (NU-NRP) said that in the event of a mass catastrophe, there would be no room available for respirated patients at all.
Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar said improper treatment of patients attached to respirators who are outside intensive care units "constitutes a flagrant and systematic abuse of the Patient's Rights Law, and costs lives."
"The government must tell patients and the public the truth," said Dr. Eran Segal, head of an ICU at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. "It must either say that it wants us to take care of you or that it has given up on you. The responsibility cannot be left in the hands of hospital directors and doctors," he said.