Doctor Hadassah Hospital
A doctor speaking with a man at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Doctors at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem have sharply criticized the unusually long hospitalization of Shmuel Ben-Artzi, father of the prime minister's wife, Sara Netanyahu, in the intensive care cardio ward. The 96-year old poet was hospitalized there for a month, while the average time a patient is hospitalized in that ward is less than four days.

On Tuesday, Ben-Artzi was released to his home for further care. There are a total of 216 beds in all the intensive care cardio wards of hospitals in Israel. Doctors have been complaining about the shortage of beds in these wards, where care is not only very expensive but also highly specialized.

In Israel only two percent of hospital beds are defined as intensive care beds, compared to five percent in Europe and 10 percent in the United States. A report prepared by the Israel Medical Association shows that the rate of increase in the number of intensive care ward beds has dropped and is now only one percent, even though the rate of population has increased at a rate of nearly two percent per year.

At the intensive care cardio ward at Hadassah Ein Karem there are six beds, and every year 1,200 patients receive care there. According to Health Ministry data, the average duration of patient care at the specialized ward in 2009 stood at only 3.7 days.

Ben-Artzi, whose condition was initially determined to be serious and was on a respirator - as all patients in the ward usually are - suffers from a number of ailments. The most serious one has nothing to do with his heart. Patients with his condition are usually hospitalized in a different ward.

Moreover, unlike the other patients in cardio intensive care, when Ben-Artzi was no longer on a respirator, he was still kept at the specialized ward.

According to hospital sources, a patient who suffered a serious heart incident was moved to a different ward, after only 24 hours in the specialized cardio ward, because of a shortage of beds.

"The decision to hospitalize Ben-Artzi for an entire month in such a critical ward, while there is a shortage of intensive care unit beds in Israel, is revolting," said a source, familiar with the details of the case, who asked to remain anonymous.

"When politicians and those close to them receive better hospital care," said a doctor in the hospital, "it is unclear how the country's leadership can comprehend the problems faced by the public health system."