Israel's Public Hospitals Say They Won't Take in More COVID Patients

Directors say they lack funding and personnel, and that the government has not fulfilled its promise of providing around 1 billion shekels in assistance

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A family member wearing protective gear visits a coronavirus patient at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, earlier this year.
A family member wearing protective gear visits a coronavirus patient at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, earlier this year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel's public hospitals will start refusing to take in new coronavirus patients as of Monday, their directors said on Sunday, citing budget constraints and a lack of personnel.

The hospital directors stated at a press conference outside the Health Ministry's office in Jerusalem that in addition, they would start working in weekend mode as of Wednesday in a protest over their budget shortage.

"Bureaucracy, excuses, committees – we can't take in coronavirus patients anymore. This isn't a strike – we just can't do it," said Laniado director general Nadav Chen. The hospital doesn't have money to pay suppliers and lacks staff because "promises weren't followed through," he said. "The hospitals need to be managed day by day, hour by hour. There are a lot of crises. This is what's going on – it's embarrassing."

Ofer Merin, director general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, also said that the government had failed to abide by an agreement that was supposed to give hospitals around 1 billion shekels in assistance beginning in January of this year. 

The country's public hospitals are Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah University Hospital, both in Jerusalem; Laniado Hospital in Netanya; Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak; and the French Hospital, the Holy Family Hospital, and the English Hospital in Nazareth.

Most of these hospitals have been among Israel's most crowded throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The majority of coronavirus patients from the Jerusalem area – which has more than a million residents – are hospitalized at Hadassah and Shaare Zedek. Mayanei Hayeshua in Bnei Brak has also faced heavy crowding given the high infection rate in the mostly ultra-Orthodox city, as has Laniado in Netanya. Recently, coronavirus patients were transferred from Mayanei Hayeshua and Laniado to hospitals in Jerusalem due to overcrowding.

The hospital directors warned the Finance Ministry at the beginning of the month that the public hospitals are at the brink of collapse due to a lack of funding. They're struggling to buy crucial medical equipment, can't pay suppliers on time and need to halt multiple projects, they said. At the time, they warned that the planned state budget neglected them, and said that they were being burdened with coronavirus patients in some of the country's worst hot spots. They have also said that a temporary agreement signed with the Finance Ministry has not been adhered to, with the ministry’s commitment to transfer millions of shekels still unfulfilled.

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