Ariel Sharon Transferred to Long-term Treatment in Tel Hashomer

Experts hold out little hope that former prime minister will emerge from coma that followed stroke in January.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon, comatose since suffering a devastating stroke nearly five months ago, left Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem in an ambulance Sunday en route to a long-term care facility in Tel Hashomer, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, hospital officials said.

Sharon's transfer to Sheba Medical Center, a facility more suited to providing him with extended care, was said to that signal that his medical team did not believe he was likely to emerge any time soon from the coma he fell into after suffering a devastating stroke Jan. 4.

Reporters at the hospital saw an ambulance leave in a motorcade filled with police and security vehicles Sunday morning and Hadassah spokesman Ron Krumer confirmed that Sharon had been moved.

Dr. Yuli Krieger, the deputy head of Levinstein House, another long-term care facility, told Israel Radio on Sunday that the 78-year-old former leader's chances of waking up after such a lengthy coma were small.

"Every day that passes after this kind of event with the patient still unconscious the chances that he will gain consciousness get smaller," said Krieger, who was not directly involved in Sharon's care.

Experts from the long-term care facility at Tel Hashomer have been consulting with Sharon's doctor and experts at the Jerusalem hospital for several weeks about moving the 78-year-old Sharon.

The decision to move Sharon was made jointly by the former prime minister's doctors and family.

The former prime minister underwent extensive brain surgery after suffering massive intra-cranial bleeding on January 4. He has had several surgeries since then but has not regained consciousness.

The last procedure, in April, was to reattach a part of his skull, removed during the emergency surgery to reduce pressure on his brain. The reattachment was described as a necessary step before transferring Sharon to a long-term care facility.

Even after a month, experts said Sharon's inability to regain consciousness meant his chances for recovery were slim. Now that nearly five months have passed, his chances are even less.

Sharon was at the height of his political powers when he was felled by the stroke. He had created a new political party, Kadima, which held a commanding lead heading into March 28 elections.

His closest political ally, Ehud Olmert, took over as acting prime minister and Kadima leader, and took the party to victory in the election, but with fewer seats than Sharon expected to win.