Hospitals Operating Over-Capacity, Officials Say

Police officers stand at the entrance to a Tel Aviv hospital. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

YERUSHALAYIM - Unusually heavy “traffic” was reported this week in many Israeli hospitals, with requests for admissions outstripping available space. At Sheba hospital in Tel Aviv, for example, the emergency room on Monday was operating at 200-percent capacity, while at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Yerushalayim that figure was 180 percent. In both places, emergency patients were being given beds in other departments – leading to a shortage of beds for patients of those departments as well.

Other hospitals with very heavy traffic and requests for admissions include Laniado hospital in Netanya, Meir hospital in Kfar Sava, Beilinson hospital in Petach Tikvah, Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon and Hillel Yafeh hospital in Hadera.

Health officials attributed the pressure to, among other things, the cold and rainy weather that has gripped the country in recent days. High winds, rain, and cold weather tend to exacerbate health problems in the elderly and infirm, and the higher numbers of those groups who are seeking medical attention have overwhelmed the system.

However, a system that begins to fall apart at the slightest pressure is one that needs serious overhaul, Dr. Asher Salomon, a top official at Hadassah Ein-Kerem, told Channel Ten. “We anticipated this rush and tried to prepare for it, releasing patients and preparing beds in other departments to receive emergency-room patients. We are even housing patients in hallways.

“Unfortunately this is what happens when the health system – which does not have enough beds, nurses, or doctors – is mismanaged,” he said. “We are doing our best to continue on with the limited resources we have, but we are all paying a price in terms of the lowered service we are able to provide. This is a policy matter that requires a national debate.”