Ichilov Hospital
Crowding at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital. Photo by Nir Kafri
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The High Court of Justice yesterday castigated the government for the shortage of hospital beds and instructed it to submit a plan for distributing new hospital beds within a month.

The court convened to discuss a petition submitted by the Israel Medical Association about the shortage of hospital beds, which is putting patients in danger.

The health and finance ministries have recently reached an agreement to add 960 beds to the country's hospitals over the next six years, the state's representatives told the court. However, they refused to say how these beds would be distributed among the hospitals.

The IMA fears the Health Ministry will add most of the beds to maternity wards, which are profitable due to payments from the National Insurance Institute, and to preemie wards. This will leave very few beds for intensive care units and internal medicine wards in the state's 27 general hospitals.

The justices expressed concern over the hospitalization crisis. Justice Salim Joubran slammed the Health Ministry for not doing enough to solve the crisis and described the situation in the intensive care units as "disgraceful compared to the world."

An OECD survey of hospital beds places Israel almost last - ahead only of Mexico - with a ratio of 1.9 beds per 1,000 people.

Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman recently called on the government to add beds to intensive care units immediately, in keeping with a Health Ministry plan stipulating the need for 300 additional ICU beds by 2015. The number of these beds has decreased by 8 percent in the past decade.

"If a disaster occurs in Be'er Sheva, patients whose life is in danger will be moved out of intensive care to die in wards where they cannot be taken care of, to make room for disaster victims," Moti Klein, Intensive Care Unit head in the Soroka Medical Center, said recently.