Shas calls for emergency Knesset parley on hospital overcrowding

Meretz protesters say government funding must go to "the sick and not the settlements"; hospital occupancy rate actually lower than in previous winters.

February 3, 2015 19:07
3 minute read.

An amputee patient with MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is pictured during surgery to clean his wound, in the operating theatre of the Unfallkrankenhaus Berlin (UKB) hospital in Berlin February 29, 2008. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The issue of hospital overcrowding turned political on Tuesday, even as the Health Ministry denied that there is any shortage of hospital beds.

Shas leader Arye Deri called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene to solve the problem of hospital overcrowding, saying “Saving lives comes before press conferences.”

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Deri asked faction chairman Avraham Michaeli to gather signatures for an emergency Knesset plenum discussion about “the collapse of the health system and hospitals.”

“The photos from the hospitals and the reality in emergency rooms are further proof of the collapse of our social services that [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid and [Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali] Bennett left behind,” Deri said.

Lapid was finance minister until recently, and Bennett is economy minister.

Meretz MK Ilan Gilon led a protest in front of Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv, in which demonstrators lied in hospital beds and held up signs reading “Money for the sick and not for settlers” and “The patient is dying and Bibi is going to Congress.”

Meanwhile, the Zionist Union released a video depicting Netanyahu laughing at a news report of overcrowding in hospitals, using footage of the prime minister chuckling from a humorous Likud campaign video.

“While you star in a comedy, we are living in a tragedy,” the video states.

According to Health Ministry statistics, the average hospital occupancy rate – in general and in internal medicine departments – has in the last few days and weeks been lower than in previous winters. The occupancy rates were an average of 105 percent, which – in Israel – is “normal,” even though in the US and Europe such figures would be very high.

Some Health Ministry sources who insisted on anonymity said hospitals exaggerated their situation to squeeze more needed funds from the Treasury.

“No doubt that there are too few hospital beds, in internal medicine departments and emergency rooms and elsewhere,” Prof. Eran Vigoda- Gadot, a veteran University of Haifa expert on medical administration and reform and public administration, told The Jerusalem Post.

The healthcare system “is still very good, and the health basket is generous.

The queues for medical care are still shorter than in Europe,” said Vigoda-Gadot. “But the Israeli population is growing; there are more chronic diseases; and people live longer. Much less public money is spent on hospitalization. But the main problem,” he continued, is that in the last 30 years, the government has cast much of its responsibility to nongovernmental institutions for health, and privatization of health services has grown. The Treasury and Israeli culture believe that the free market will solve everything, yet this is not true.”

Healthcare “costs a lot of money, and the governments don’t want to decide to spend more. Especially now, it’s a political game, and hospitals make use of it, especially in the winter, to demand more funds. I don’t think this is necessarily illegitimate,” he concluded.

The Health Ministry said on Tuesday that the flu, which is the main cause of complications of chronic diseases in the winter, is this year of three strains. The most prominent this time is H3N2. “This year, flu activity is relatively low, and it is similar to the level two years ago. We are currently at the apex of flu-related sickness, which will continue for the next three or four weeks.”

The ministry continued that “every year, there are many serious flu cases and deaths. There is nothing unusual this year, so morbidity [sickness] has significantly declined in comparison to last year. All three flu strains are covered by the flu vaccination, so it is recommended that everyone go for a shot; the body gets protection within two weeks of vaccination.”

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