Hospital Bed Availability in Israel at Lowest Since 1980s

Number of beds per 1,000 people has hit lowest point in three decades, Health Ministry data shows ■ Only 165 beds added last year while population grew by 174,000

Inside the internal medicine ward at Assaf Harofeh Hospital, Tzrifin, March 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The number of hospital beds per 1,000 people has hit a three-decade low, data published by the Health Ministry last week showed.

There are 1.78 beds per 1,000 Israelis, down from 1.80 in 2017 and 2.69 in 1988.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s population grew by 174,000 last year, reaching 8.97 million at the start of 2019. But the report said that only 165 hospital beds were added last year.

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The Northern District, home to 1.5 million people, received just three extra beds last year, while the Haifa District got 12. The Jerusalem district, where over a million people live, got 31 new beds, and the central district, home to more than two million people, got 55.

The Tel Aviv District, which has 1.5 million people, got 29 new beds, while the Southern District, with 1.3 million people, got 35.

Altogether, Israel has around 16,000 general hospital beds, a term that encompasses most wards. The term refers not just to the bed, but also to the staff, infrastructure and equipment needed to support it. Thus a lack of beds not only means an increase in crowding or a greater risk of infection, but also a greater burden on the medical staff

A ministry report published some months ago said that in some wards, the average hospital stay has fallen from three days to two in recent years, while the number of people admitted for one day only has risen. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of elderly patients, whose cases are often more complicated.

Israel also has a shortage of geriatric beds, which aren’t included in the general hospital bed count. There are 2.8 geriatric beds per 1,000 people, which is the lowest rate since the ministry began publishing this statistic in 2000.

Last year, 143 geriatric beds were added, bringing the total to around 25,000. Geriatric patients often require lengthy hospitalizations.

In February, the ministry published a report on the patient experience at hospitals, based on questionaires issued to 11,000 patients at 26 hospitals who had been hospitalized for at least two days over the past year.

Around 12 percent of respondents spent at least part of their hospital stay in the corridor. But 69 percent of those patients were nevertheless satisfied with their hospitalization conditions, 64 percent were satisfied with their overall hospital experience and 61 percent would recommend their hospital to others.