Health minister blames Netanyahu for health system’s problems

Nitzan Horowitz says former PM responsible for hospitals’ lack of resources, vows to fix • Green Pass eligibility changes Oct. 3, past 6-month recovery will need a booster shot.

 Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz accused former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former health minister Ya’acov Litzman of being responsible for hospitals’ lack of resources, and has vowed to resolve the issue.

“The healthcare system and hospitals have been starved by Netanyahu and Litzman,” Horowitz said, while visiting the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon on Sunday. “They have suffered from neglect and deliberate abandonment for many years. There is a shortage of beds, manpower and resources. I am working to fix this, to bring more permanent staff to the system and a change in the health budget.”

In the past few days, hospitals have decried a lack of specialized staff and equipment necessary to treat the rising number of patients in critical condition. They have been especially disturbed by the lack of ECMO machines, also known as “heart-lung machines,” which require constant supervision.

While the number of patients in serious condition has been relatively stable, fluctuating between 650 and 740 in the past month – 711 as of Sunday – the number of patients who require ventilation has been on the rise. On Sunday it stood at 215, after reaching 221 on Saturday night, the highest since March.

Jerusalem resident Phillip Brieff is seen getting the third COVID-19 booster shot at a Meuhedet clinic, on August 1, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Jerusalem resident Phillip Brieff is seen getting the third COVID-19 booster shot at a Meuhedet clinic, on August 1, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“There is no reason the healthcare system in Israel should always be stretched to its limit, and I am determined to change that,” Horowitz said.

Israel registered 2,616 new cases on Saturday, according to a Sunday update by the Health Ministry, with 3.96% of the almost 70,000 people screened identified positive for the coronavirus.

Both figures marked the lowest in over a month. Those figures have been affected by the Jewish holidays, which began on September 6. Health trends during the period have been significantly affected by the resulting limited number of regular school days and workdays.

As a result, the number of daily cases has varied greatly in the past three weeks, with the number of tests performed ranging between 55,000 and 185,000. The outcome has been as few as 3,000 up to over 10,000 virus carriers identified in a single day.

Fortunately, the reproduction rate, or R, has been trending downward.

The rate represents how many people each virus carrier has infected on average and mirrors the situation of only about 10 days before.

When the R stands above 1, the disease is considered to be spreading, because every case generates more than one case. When it is below 1, it is a sign that the number of cases is decreasing.

As of Sunday, R stood at 0.81.

IN THE past few days, however, health officials have warned that the outbreak is not declining and more restrictions are necessary, especially limiting large gatherings.

Government officials have opposed introducing new measures, in light of the fact that most serious patients are unvaccinated, and that in a week, a stricter policy regarding the Green Pass is already scheduled to come into effect.

Up until next Sunday, anyone who is vaccinated with two doses or recovered is eligible for a permanent Green Pass. This is in addition to those who undergo a coronavirus test and get a temporary Green Pass.

Beginning October 3, however, a six-month standard will apply to the first two vaccinations: Only individuals who have been inoculated twice in the previous six months or gotten a booster will be granted a permanent pass. The pass guarantees access to several venues and activities as well as to many workplaces.

In addition, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash clarified on Sunday morning that those who have recovered will also be eligible for the Green Pass for a period of six months, after which they will need to get vaccinated.

So far, some 6.08 million Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 5.61 million two, and 3.89 million three.

During the holidays, the vaccination drive has slowed down, with the highest number of shots given during the period reaching 73,000, as opposed to 115,000 in previous weeks. On many days, only a few thousands shot were given.

Health and government officials are also hoping to see a decline in the number of serious patients, thanks to a new treatment being given to mild cases in those who are considered at risk to develop serious symptoms.

Since Thursday, such patients have been receiving the Regeneron antibody-drug combination at home through their health funds.

According to Regeneron’s data, if administered in the early stage of infection, the treatment reduces hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk individuals by 70%.

A Saturday report by Channel 12, however, suggested that there might be a tendency among unvaccinated patients – who are at a very high risk of deteriorating – to refuse the treatment.

According to the report, as of Saturday night, six out of seven individuals offered the drug by the Meuhedet Health Fund declined it.

Following the report, a representative of Clalit – the largest healthcare provider in Israel, with over four million members – said that as of Sunday, it has given the drug to about 40 patients, and there have been people who have refused it, but no precise number or vaccination status of these individuals was yet available.