HMOs Lack Manpower to Handle Massive Test Volume

A technician carries out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel’s plans to ramp up testing for the coronavirus appeared unrealistic on Thursday, amid reports that health maintenance organizations (HMOs) which have been tasked with carry out tests lack the capacity to do so.

They simply can’t handle the volume, according to a Channel 12 report, which quoted a letter to the Health Ministry sent by Dr. George Prajgrod, the head of the Medical Laboratory Division at the Meuhedet HMO, warning that “we have been pushed to the limit — we don’t have the manpower to handle all the tests.”

“If you don’t stop the flood of tests forced upon us, there will be another testing scandal,” Prajgrod wrote to Ruti Yishai, the deputy head of the ministry’s department of laboratories.

“Please contact the senior managers of the Health Ministry and update them that all the labs are in crisis and there is no chance of meeting the target number of tests — this time not because of regents or machines but because we don’t have enough manpower for this task.”

Earlier this week, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced an expansion of testing, to include asymptomatic persons.

Deputy director-general of the Ministry Itamar Grotto stated that the country had the capacity to handle 40,000 tests a day, but they were choosing not to at this point. The Ministry said that 11,721 tests were conducted on Tuesday and 12,929 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the infection trend continued upward, as another 188 cases were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the country’s total to 17,495.

The number of active cases, which last week dipped below the 2,000 mark, has since rebounded to 2,191.

Of the sick, 30 were in serious condition, 23 of them on ventilators. Another 33 were in moderate condition, and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The death toll remained at 291.

The number of Israelis confirmed to have recovered from the disease surpassed 15,000 on Thursday.

The cases are spread across the country, though the highest concentration was reported in Yerushalayim, 53 in the last three days. In Tel Aviv, 25; Beersheva 17, Bnei Brak 15 and Ashdod 14.

The number of schools closed due to fresh virus outbreaks rose to 87, in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Givatayim, Jaffa, Petah Tivka, Sderot and Tel Aviv.