Israel Tells Hospitals to Limit Use of Anasthesia, Fearing Coronavirus Shortages

Health Ministry calls for 'prudent use' of drugs, suggests avoiding non-urgent operations

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Medical staff at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, April 7, 2020.
Medical staff at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, April 7, 2020.Credit: Amir Levy
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The Health Ministry has instructed Israeli hospitals to cut back on scheduled operations as much as possible, for fear of an impending shortage or delays in supplying anesthetic drugs.

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The directive signed by Dr. Vered Ezra, the head of the ministry’s medical administration, was issued on Tuesday to all institutions where surgery is performed, including state-owned and private hospitals and surgical clinics. It called for the “prudent use” of drugs used in general anesthesia in light of potential supply issues for some anesthetics and “the avoidance of operations that are not urgent.”

Public hospitals were told last month to suspend elective surgeries and other operations that can be postponed, but at the time private hospitals were not affected by the directive.

Hospitals were also advised some weeks ago to acquire sufficient amounts of medicine to last for a few months. A later directive told hospitals to prepare for the possible use of experimental drugs for COVID-19 patients. The coronavirus crisis has led to worldwide shortages of drugs, personal protective equipment and other hospital supplies.

Numbers released by the ministry on Friday showed over 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel. The majority of cases remain mild, but over 100 patients required life support.

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