Negev needs additional hospital to cope with growth and aging of population

It was said that the greater Beersheba area will have a million residents in a few years, compared to 650,000 today. But planning and building a new hospital takes seven to 10 years.

By
June 25, 2016 23:34
3 minute read.
Netanyahu

Netanyahu surveys the Negev from a helicopter. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

 
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Planned population growth in the Negev, including the building of IDF training centers in the south, led to a 2014 government decision in principle to build a new hospital in Beersheba in addition to the city’s Soroka University Medical Center. In fact, this view was expressed as far back as the 1970s, but nothing was done. A few weeks ago, health economists and other experts held a conference at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on the subject of another hospital that was attended by Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov.

It was said that the greater Beersheba area will have a million residents in a few years, compared to 650,000 today. But planning and building a new hospital takes seven to 10 years, and there is already a severe shortage of nurses and of doctors in certain specialties, especially in the periphery of the country.

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Ministry associate director-general Prof. Arnon Afek said that Soroka must also be expanded; tipat halav (well-baby centers) and rehabilitation facilities must be expanded and more medical personnel must be trained. Those present agreed that even without the massive move of IDF facilities to the south, the aging of the population and the high birth rate require a major boost to medical facilities in the south.

They agreed that a major problem would be how to decide who would own the hospital; health funds and private interests want it, as the government has not built a new public medical center anywhere in the country in decades.

MUSCLE MASS LOSS TO HIT HARD

Although most people have never heard of a condition called sarcopenia, it affects up to 20 percent of older people in the advanced countries and may increase by as much as 60 percent by 2045. Sarcopenia is a disease associated with the aging process, with symptoms including loss of muscle mass and strength, which in turn affect balance, gait and overall ability to perform tasks of daily living.

At the recent World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases, researchers from the University of Liège in Belgium presented a study that reveals the enormous and growing burden of sarcopenia. Due to its complexity, there is as yet no global consensus on the definition of the disease for diagnostic purposes. The European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People has defined sarcopenia as low muscle mass with low muscle strength or with low gait speed.

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With two cutoff points available for each of the three components of this definition, eight different methods of diagnosis of sarcopenia can be used.

Using the Eurostat online database, the researchers retrieved age and gender-specific population projections from 2016 to 2045 for 28 European countries. With prevalence estimates interpolated for adults above 65 years of age, the estimates of sarcopenia prevalence were applied to population projections until 2045. The results showed that using the definition providing the lowest prevalence estimates, the number of individuals with sarcopenia in Europe in 2016 is 10,869,527. This will rise to 18,735,173 in 2045 (a 72.4% increase). The overall prevalence of sarcopenia in the elderly will rise from 11.1% in 2016 to 12.9% in 2045. Women currently account for 44.2% of prevalent cases.

Presenting author Dr. Olivier Ethgen stated that “regardless of which diagnostic cutoff is used to define sarcopenia, the prevalence of this condition is expected to rise substantially in Europe. It is therefore essential that we implement effective prevention and disease management strategies. Health authorities must take action in order to limit the impact on increasingly strained healthcare systems and to help Europeans enjoy healthy, active aging.”

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