Sharp Drop in Number of Emergency Room Beds

Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90, File)

The number of beds available in emergency units fell by 40 percent over the last decade, according to a report submitted to the Knesset Committee on Distributive Justice. If in 2007 there were 460 emergency unit beds for every 100,000 Israelis, today that number has fallen to 285 beds per 100,000 population.

Reasons for the falloff are not clear, as several hospitals expanded their facilities over the past decade. But an aging population and an increase in the number of hospital beds used for non-emergency purposes – and removed from emergency units – could be at fault, according to Dr. Ariel Buchinsky, chairman of the Israel Interns Organization.

Speaking at the Distributive Justice Committee hearing that discussed the report, Buchinsky said that “the problem has been developing for some years but nothing was done about it. There are no hospitals where demand for such beds is not greater than supply, and at any given time there are 50 to 70 patients in any Israeli hospital that do not have a bed. The number of beds here is significantly less than in other countries. In the U.S., for example, the ratio of beds to population is three times higher than it is here.”

According to Dr. Vered Ezra, a Health Ministry official, hospitals badly need more resources. “We are developing a plan to add an additional 1,500 hospital beds in the next six years. We cannot allocate them all to emergency units because there are many needs. I hope that the program will soon be approved by the Finance Ministry and we can begin to improve the situation.”

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