Almost 370 elderly patients at Ra'anana's Mishan nursing hospital will be forced to move to other hospitals and about 240 employees will have to seek new jobs after an unexpected announcement by management that it plans to close down the hospital and upgrade it to a protected housing complex, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Hasharon. The sudden decision to close the 35-year-old nursing hospital caught the elderly residents and their families by surprise, and many expressed anger and fear for the future. According to the report, hospital employees were informed of the decision at a meeting recently, and word spread rapidly to the 369 patients. Many of the patients' families were outraged that they had not been formally notified of the impending closure. "What do they think, that they can come to us in three months' time and tell us that they are moving our parents that very day to another city?" asked one angry family member. Staff members were also worried, both for their own futures and for those of their patients. One nurse said some patients were suffering from severe mental and physical problems and moving them to new surroundings "could simply finish them off." A Mishan spokeswoman said blame should be laid on the Health and Finance Ministries, which had unilaterally ordered the hospital to charge rates too low for it to be able to provide appropriate nursing services. The Mishan chain has appealed to the courts against the ruling, and a hearing has been fixed for late March in Tel Aviv. The spokeswoman said Mishan was not seeking profits and did not want to close the hospital, but it could not operate at a loss. But that argument did not go down well with employees or patients' families, who said that if the hospital needed to run at a loss, it should do so and the Health Ministry should cover it. "A nursing hospital is not supposed to be a commercial enterprise," one nurse said. And a patient's daughter asked, "How can you treat 370 chronic nursing patients like economic units and scatter them around the country?" A Health Ministry spokesman said Mishan had informed the ministry of its intention to close the hospital and turn it into a protected housing building, a concept similar to a retirement home. The spokesman said further meetings would be held between ministry officials and Mishan management on the topic.