Outbreaks in nursing homes worsened by bureaucratic test bungling

"On every tombstone of an elderly person who died from COVID, will it be written that they died due to the Tender Obligation Law?" Committee chairman Ofer Shelah asked.

THERE IS now a broad social realization that the elderly are the main risk group that needs to be protected.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
THERE IS now a broad social realization that the elderly are the main risk group that needs to be protected.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Outbreaks of novel coronavirus among residents of nursing homes, who are the highest-risk group due to their age and difficulty to isolate, have intensified by the fact that the company that performs the testing was switched due a tender, and the new company does laboratory testing that takes 72 hours to yield results, according to a discussion in the State Audit Committee on Monday.
This bureaucratic bungling does not bode well for the success of vaccination programs for the elderly, representatives of organizations for the elderly warned in the wake of the discussion.
Senior health officials and politicians on the committee spoke of how a dangerous situation has been made more deadly by the testing delays and also decried the fact that nurses employed in the nursing homes are not allowed to carry out the testing due to bureaucratic issues, slowing down the process even further.
Prof. Nimrod Maimon, head of the Health Ministry Fathers and Mothers Shield program, tasked with overseeing the management of the virus among the elderly, told the State Audit Committee that ”Due to the tender instructions, we moved to laboratory tests with late results, and the nurses [at the nursing homes] are not allowed to test the elderly. We lost precious time.”
Maimon blamed the decision to grant the tender to a company that does slower testing for the wave of recent outbreaks in nursing homes and also questioned the wisdom of switching companies in the middle of a crisis, saying, “This is what happens when you change companies during a struggle.”
“My appointment and also Prof. [Nachman] Ash’s are as consultants – we have no power. When something like this happens, people pull out their hair,” Maimon added. “I sent a letter to the Health Minister and the director-general of the ministry about it, but we received a procedural answer that the issue was being examined and there are failures.”
“We definitely see a trend of declining service and results. In the past, we set up a test site and reached wonderful results in 24 hours. Today, the sampling is received once a week and the results are given 72 hours later. A nurse that works with people at high risk and because of the complicated procedure, now she can get a positive test in 48 hours. We have lost precious time. Every researcher knows that you don’t change two variables at once. We switched the company that does the sampling and also the lab. We encountered the horrors of the plague in the worst way possible.”
COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN Ofer Shelah responded, “The fact that new elements have been introduced is exactly what is wrong. If we use the military analogy, the first thing we do in war is keep things as simple as possible. If something works, stay with it. With all due respect, how can the Tender Obligation Law be included in the equation at all? On every tombstone of an elderly person who died from COVID[-19], will it be written that they died due to the Tender Obligation Law?”
Maimon added, “The nurses can certainly test on their own and save time. This does not happen only because of regulatory reasons. The accountant says it is impossible because a new tender has to be issued.”
The secretary of the Association of Nursing Homes, Avi Tov Zelkin said: “Nurses in nursing homes are not allowed to test the tenants. High school students are allowed to test their friends and nurses are not allowed? It is unbelievable.”
Following reports of this discussion, representatives of the elderly expressed shock and anger. The Association of Families of the Elderly warned that, given the failures in testing, the vaccination program is likely to fail.
Dr. Orian Yitzhak, founder of the Association of Families of the Elderly, said, “During the discussion, it became clear that the Health Ministry does not have the managerial ability to manage this mega event that needs a mega manager!”
The association recommended that Hebrew University senior lecturer Brig.-Gen. Dr. Tarif Bader be put in charge of the vaccination program at nursing homes.
The Association for Geriatrics in Israel warned that bureaucratic failures in nursing homes will lead to a failure of the planned vaccination program.
The Association for Geriatrics in Israel said: “In the second wave we saw a decrease in mortality and prevention of outbreaks and in the third wave the outbreaks returned due to the change of suppliers – test providers and laboratories.”
Amir Friedman, the association’s representative on the committee said: “Since the beginning of the crisis, no one in the Health Ministry has contacted us to check what we need. There is a total disregard for the professional, medical and nursing staff that works in the institutions and care for our fathers and mothers.”
Avi Shochat, the director of a geriatric institution said, “We are collapsing due to a shortage of manpower, [and] irrational procedures that are being imposed on us by the Health Ministry. Recently a head nurse came to me and put a letter of resignation on my desk. I had to make a big effort to keep her.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.