At Jerusalem Nursing Home Where Two Residents Died, Coronavirus and Frustration Spread

Residents have been quarantined as the outbreak in the center continues, but Health Ministry has decided not to test them for the virus: 'We’re talking about people who built this country. Don’t they deserve to be tested?'

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The Migdal Nofim nursing home in Jerusalem, earlier this month.
The Migdal Nofim nursing home in Jerusalem, earlier this month.Credit: Emil Salman

“The Health Ministry keeps saying, ‘Protect Grandma and Grandpa,’ so why aren’t they protecting us? Do they want us all to get infected?” asks Esther Koby, a resident of the Migdal Nofim assisted living residence in Jerusalem, which has become a coronavirus hotspot.

Migdal Nofim was the site of one of the first coronavirus outbreaks in Jerusalem, after an employee infected several residents and staff members.

Two residents have died, and the infection has spread, with a total of six residents and six staff members and another three foreign nursing aids infected.

Most of the patients who took ill were under nursing home care.

One of the patients died at Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem after two days in hospital.

On Saturday, Arieh Even, another resident, died after contracting an infectiton last week.

An employee of the facility said two other residents in that ward who were diagnosed with the coronavirus weren’t evacuated to hospitals for hours. The 15 people infected include residents and their families, and Nofim staff members criticized a Health Ministry decision not to test all residents and employees for the virus.

“My feeling is that we’re old people and we’ve lived our lives, and now we’re a bit superfluous and they can flatten the curve with us,” says Koby, a member of the residence’s tenants’ council. “The situation is very grave. How could it be that there are two sick people who they refuse to remove?”

All the residents were quarantined in their rooms 10 days ago for two weeks.

Also confined to the building were eight employees, working under great duress, caring for 170 people who cannot leave their rooms.

“Our workers are incredibly devoted,” says Koby. “They bring us everything we need, but there’s a limit to human strength. No one is hungry or thirsty. We are disciplined people who are sitting in our rooms for two weeks already, but we lack personnel and we would expect someone to help us.”

“I simply can’t understand the lack of responsibility and abandonment by the Health Ministry,” adds the son of a resident. “We’re talking about dozens of elderly people who’ve been in isolation for two weeks. Some are definitely carriers.

“In two days, when they’ll allow them to stop self-isolating, they won’t come out because they’re afraid. Not for themselves – they’re afraid they’ll infect their friends. They prefer to continue the difficult quarantine with each of them totally alone, just not to infect another resident. It’s heartbreaking.”

“The whole time they're talking about increasing the number of tests, but they [the residents] aren’t being counted. We’re talking about people who built this country. Don’t they deserve to be tested?”

The chairman of the residents committee, Zvika Levi, said, however he was not pressing for tests to be done.

“I’m not pressuring about the tests because the Health Ministry is in the same situation we’re in, multiplied by a thousand.” Ada Friedman, another resident, added, “I’m in touch with the residents and I feel that it’s getting harder for them as time and the quarantine continues.

“But despite all this, people are keeping their morale up. Even those who complain apologize that it isn’t nice to be complaining in this situation. But people are confused and there’s pressure. They still want them to do tests so they can know [whether they’re infected], it would make them feel more secure.”

Last week the Health Ministry said there was no point in testing those residents in isolation because the results wouldn’t change their situation, that anyone who doesn’t present symptoms wouldn’t be evacuated for treatment anyway.

The ministry also said that negative tests don’t mean the residents wren’t exposed to the virus, so they would have to remain quarantined in any case.

Haaretz asked the ministry for an updated response, but did not receive one.

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