Health Ministry announces increase in epidemiological investigators

The announcement comes after a document was published revealing a severe lack in personnel performing the investigations. One nurse said that, "if there's a second wave, the system will crash."

A paramedic adjusts his protective suit as he prepares outside a special polling station set up by Israel's election committee so Israelis under home-quarantine, such as those who have recently travelled back to Israel from coronavirus hot spots can vote in Israel's national election, in Ashkelon, I (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
A paramedic adjusts his protective suit as he prepares outside a special polling station set up by Israel's election committee so Israelis under home-quarantine, such as those who have recently travelled back to Israel from coronavirus hot spots can vote in Israel's national election, in Ashkelon, I
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
The Health Ministry has announced an increase of manpower for performing epidemiological investigations on Friday, set to go into effect immediately. The announcement comes after a Health Ministry document had previously revealed a major lack in manpower.
Epidemiological investigations are at the forefront of keeping the total number of cases in the country low. In government-proposed exit strategies the need for epidemiological investigation, testing, and getting people into quarantine has been highlighted time and time again, yet the number of people conducting those investigations has not been enough.
This led to a Friday's announcement stating that a budget has been set up by the Health Ministry allowing the hiring of 300 more people with the aim of helping current nurses, who up until now have been overworked. The increase in manpower will also aid in speeding up current epidemiological investigations.
"A quick separation in the chain of infection is important for dealing with the rise in morbidity. We will therefore allocate every resource needed to do so," said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, under whose guidance the Health Ministry made the decision.
"This is a necessary step to temporarily fill the severe shortage in manpower operating the epidemiological investigations we have been warning about for months," said the Association for Public Health Doctors in response to Edelstein's announcement.
"The public health system has constantly undergone a severe shortage of manpower, which severely impairs the state's ability to protect citizens both from the coronavirus and other diseases," they added.

Prior to the announcement, a document revealed by the Health Ministry showed a lack of 170 nurses to conduct the epidemiological investigations into coronavirus cases, Israel Hayom reported on Thursday. 
Currently, there are only 27 nurses from the Health Ministry conducting the investigations, stationed in seven offices throughout the country.
 
Current personnel can only run a total of 1,231 investigations per week – an average of 175 investigations a day, according to the document. The nurses doing those investigations are working overtime, including nights, holidays and weekends. 
The average time it takes to finish an investigation is one and a quarter days, according to Head of Public Health Services, Prof. Sigal Sadetsky, who spoke about the manpower challenge during a Knesset discussion earlier this week.
"In terms of manpower, our nurses are worn out. We're five months into this war – this is where I demand help from the Finance Ministry," he said. At the time, the Knesset responded that nurses from private companies were hired, but that it is not a complete solution.
 
In the Jerusalem regional office, about 90 positions need to be filled. Meanwhile, in the Tel Aviv regional office – which is in charge of the city of Bnei Brak, where one of the country's most condensed outbreaks took place, there are 83 positions to be filled. 
"Spots in the Health Ministry have not been updated in years. For a long time there's been a shortage of public health nurses and medical professionals. It's never too late to add manpower, and to fill the gaps," said an official involved in running the investigations. 
"More efficiency in the investigation system will reduce the number of cases that we have, which will ultimately have an effect on the economy and the routine of life," he added.

Sarit Cooperman, one of the nurses running the investigations, wrote in a testimony that she published: "We work long nights, including on Shabbat. We are giving up on our personal lives in order to let the public live safely. If there's a second wave, the system will crash."