Plan to freeze hospitalization facility growth 'a disaster'

Occupancy at some hospitals reaches 150%; Helath Ministry official blasts Treasury.

Nahariya Hospital 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Nahariya Hospital 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A senior Health Ministry official has attacked the Finance Ministry's plans to freeze the discussion of constructing infrastructure for additional hospital beds until at least 2010. Dr. Michael Dor, acting head of the Health Ministry's medical branch and permanent director of the general medicine department, said in Jerusalem on Wednesday that there were only 2.1 general hospital beds per 1,000 residents, which is among the lowest rates in the Western world. The Treasury's Arrangements Bill, aimed at cost cutting, would prohibit any discussion of expanding hospitalization facilities for at least two years, he said. But even if growth were approved, said Dor, it would take years to construct more facilities and to train medical manpower to treat patients. Dor, speaking at the first Conference on Urgent Medicine, organized at the Jerusalem Regency Hotel by Terem emergency medical centers, told more than 150 community physicians: "I receive daily reports on hospitalization rates and present them to the health minister and director-general every week. I have a heavy feeling. Some hospitals reached a 150-percent occupancy last year. The year-long average of 85% in Western countries abroad is considered reasonable, but ours reaches 98%," said Dor. He added that in Jerusalem, which has a good number of beds in its public medical centers, there were still be problems. "Even in summer, the occupancy rate in internal medicine departments is 120%. I get reports on the number of patients attached to a respirator who are not in intensive care units because there is no room for them. The survival rate of ventilated patients outside intensive care units is 40% lower, and we have 500 to 600 of these," Dor said, noting that influenza season was only about to begin. "We immediately need 300 more intensive care unit beds and 200 more internal medicine beds." Dor said that with the health system helpless in the face of severe budget restrictions, it can only encourage private entrepreneurs, like those who run Terem clinics, to try to prevent hospitalization whenever possible. The Terem network was established by Dr. David Applebaum, the outstanding urgent care physician and former head of emergency medicine at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Applebaum was murdered in a 2003 suicide bombing at a cafe with his daughter Na'ava on the eve of her wedding. Terem urgent care clinics (two in Jerusalem and one each in Beit Shemesh, Ma'aleh Adumim and Modi'in), run by Dr. Joe Djemal, provide speedy, professional, low-cost care, eliminating the need for the vast majority of patients from having to go to a hospital emergency room. "High-quality centers like Terem's should continue to grow in the community," said Dor. "They give excellent care. I also work in in a health fund clinic in Jerusalem's Gilo quarter, and I refer patients to Terem. I see the results, the quick and professional service and the ongoing connection to personal physicians, and I congratulate them." A full feature on the Terem conference will appear on the Health Page on Sunday, November 18.