There is a crisis situation in the general hospitals due to overcrowding and a lack of manpower, and, as a result, "patients are dying every day," the Israel Medical Association said at a press conference at Sheba Medical Center Thursday. IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar said there was only one duty doctor for every 60 patients, and the rate of hospital beds was the lowest in the developed world - 1.94 beds per 1,000 residents. He said the acute shortage of medical and nursing manpower and the lack of well-maintained medical equipment had intensified the crisis. By 2015, an additional 3,000 hospital beds would be needed, he added. The situation in the hospitals was "like that after a mass catastrophe," Blachar said, "and every day patients pay for it with their lives. Dr. Ya'acov Or, chairman of the Emergency Medicine Society, said the number of visits to emergency rooms had doubled over the past 12 years. The number of emergency room doctors and nurses was one-tenth of the number needed, according to international standards, he said. Dr. Ya'acov Hart, chairman of the Hospital Directors Association, said physicians felt "despondent and miserable" because of the situation. According to Prof. Haim Bitterman, head of the Internal Medicine Society, 800 patients were attached to respirators at any one time, but only 500 of them were in intensive care units. Manpower slots in the hospitals had not changed in 30 years, he added. Bitterman said because patients were discharged too fast in many cases, one-fifth of them returned to the hospitals soon after, which caused additional pressure and led to deaths. Prof. Elisha Bartoov, head of the Government Hospitals Union, said the crisis promoted medical errors. He said any small mistake could result in the deaths of patients on respirators who were not in intensive care. "These patients cannot cry out," said Dr. Leonid Eidelman, head of Clalit Health Services' Hospital Doctors' Union, "and physicians who treat them cannot shout in protest because they are exhausted and frustrated." The IMA called on the Health Ministry to add manpower slots and purchase medical equipment for hospitals immediately and implement a plan for increasing the number of hospital beds. No comment was available from the ministry by press time.