Too few hospital beds, but Treasury unmoved

The average patient is hospitalized for an average of 4.1 days, which, due to the lack of beds, is shorter than in most other developed countries.

Hospital generic 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
Hospital generic 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Health Ministry admits to a continuing decline in the number of general hospital beds - despite the growth and ageing of Israel's population - in a report it has issued on hospitalization trends in 2006. Hospital crowding is due to intensify because the Treasury has not allowed the Health Ministry to even think of allowing the construction of more facilities until 2010. The report showed that in 2006, the number of beds in general hospitals dropped by 25 to 14,582. The number in psychiatric institutions significantly declined, while the number in hospitals offering long-term care for the elderly and others with chronic diseases increased. The general hospitals had an average occupancy rate of 95 percent - among the highest in the developed world - and even more crowding in internal medicine, acute geriatrics, oncology, bone marrow transplant, pediatric intensive care, gynecology and obstetrics. The average patient is hospitalized for an average of 4.1 days, which, due to the lack of beds, is shorter than in most other developed countries The number of hospitalization days in general hospitals was 5.1 million in 2006. A fifth of general hospital patients were over the age of 75 last year, compared to only 17% a decade before. Of all general hospital beds, 46% are owned by the government, 30.4% by Clalit Health Services, 6% by the Hadassah Medical Organization and the rest private, public or other health funds. Some 22,000 people died in general hospitals last year. The number of psychiatric beds in hospitals owned by the government, Clalit Health Service and private institutions was 4,240 in 2006, or 10% of all hospital beds in the country compared to 35% in 1975. There was a total of 1.3 hospitalization days in psychiatric institutions. Of these institutions, there are 623 beds for drug rehabilitation. The average hospital stay in psychiatric institutions was 127 days, with 60% occupancy, as many more mental patients are treated in the community. There were also 22,283 beds in long-term institutions for the elderly and chronically ill and 987 beds in rehabilitation institutions. Of these, 72% are in complex nursing departments or for the demented, while the minority were for less serious cases. More geriatric hospitals have opened in the northern and southern districts. Most hospital beds in the country are in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with fewer proportionally in the North and South. The rate of beds per population is decreasing in all districts except Tel Aviv. Fifty-seven kidney dialysis units functioned last year (75 more than in 2005) with places for 555 patients simultaneously. A growing number of dialysis machines are in private institutions, and many are outside of hospitals and in the community.