IDF Ordered to Set Up Field Hospital to Handle Coronavirus Overflow

Israeli firefighters wearing protective clothes disinfect Assuta hospital in Ashdod as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. (Flash90/File)

As hospitals in Israel have begun to refuse admission to coronavirus cases for lack of room, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday ordered the establishment of a field hospital to handle the overflow.

“Gantz has ordered staff to begin preparations to build an army field hospital that would contain about 200 beds,” the Defense Ministry said.

On Monday, Israel again had a record number of cases, some 51,503 active infections.

Despite the current three-week lockdown, many health experts have said that they do not expect that it will flatten the curve of the virus, which means that hospitals must contend with pressure.

At least two major hospitals in Israel – Assuta in Ashdod and Yerushalayim’s Shaare Tzedek – have said they can no longer accept coronavirus cases due to overload.

Other coronavirus wards at a number of major hospitals around the country have exceeded 100 percent capacity – Yerushalayim’s Hadassah Ein Kerem (129%) and Hadassah Mount Scopus (100%), Netanya’s Laniado hospital (120%), and Ramat Gan’s Sheba Medical Center (109%), according to the Times of Israel.

In view of the situation, Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy ordered all hospitals to suspend elective surgeries and dedicate all of their resources to the pandemic response.

“We expect to end the next 10 days with an increase of 200-300 serious, ventilated or critical patients,” wrote Levy. “I ask you to treat this situation as an emergency situation for the healthcare system. Hospitals must end elective, non-essential procedures.”

Coronavirus project manager Ronni Gamzu told Channel 12 news that he fears the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition could reach 800 by the end of the week, a number that has been frequently cited as the maximum Israeli hospitals can cope with.

Gamzu continued with grim projections: some 20 deaths a day, or 600 per month, nearly half of the national toll since the start of the pandemic.

“Every day that we have 5,000 cases diagnosed. Take into account that it means 25 people dying,” Gamzu said Monday on the Kan public broadcaster. “It is also young people, it is ravaging the country.”

The Health Ministry on Monday reported 2,565 new virus cases diagnosed on Sunday, with the number of cases since the start of the pandemic rising to 188,760. The figure was lower than recent days, and may have been the result of fewer tests run over Rosh Hashana. Close to 11 percent of tests were confirmed positive.

Of the 51,503 active cases, 1,348 people are hospitalized with the virus, including 651 patients in serious condition of whom 160 were on ventilators. The death toll stood at 1,260, with only six deaths recorded Sunday, as compared to the 24 deaths the day before.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had a harsh rebuke for those who had belittled the dangers. At the Monday afternoon weekly Cabinet meeting, he said:

”Anyone who underestimated the restrictions we imposed, anyone who diluted the decisions or overturned them – should not come to us with complaints about how the morbidity is rising. In Europe more countries are also making closures, also in New Zealand and Australia they have made closures and it has proven itself.

“We will convene the Coronavirus Cabinet tomorrow to determine what steps we need to take,” Netanyahu said.

”Since we made the decision there has been a steep rise in critically ill patients. “Tomorrow we will consider the measures,” Netanyahu said, taken as a reference to the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee chairwoman, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, who has consistently questioned the wisdom of lockdowns.

Netanyahu added that “ministers who do not belong to this cabinet can forward their proposals to the National Security Council. At the same time, the meeting today is to transfer more financial assistance, to help the unemployed and businesses. Tomorrow we will also have to discuss the preparation of the hospitals.”

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