A senior official with the World Health Organization visited Israel’s hospitals Tuesday and praised the country’s health care system’s efforts to battle an influenza epidemic.
“Israel is at the lead of handling influenza,” Dr. Arnold Monto told Channel 2. “It’s one of the few countries which has a recommendation that everyone should be vaccinated. There are only two or three countries in the world who do that.”
By way of comparison, Monto related that recently in Boston, Massachusetts, officials were considering setting up tents outside the hospitals — in freezing weather — to accommodate the number of patients that required care.
However, not everybody is satisfied with how the country is handling the winter illness stress.
Hospitals nationwide reported Tuesday that they had reached or exceeded full capacity, with medical centers in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tiberias, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv, and Holon reporting overcrowding that in some cases reached 150 percent.
A national media campaign — urging Israelis to avoid going to the hospital unless absolutely necessary — reduced the burden to some degree, according to Israel Radio.
Dr. Leonid Eidelman, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, told Israel Radio that the medical system in Israel “is collapsing.” He added that hospitals are totally overwhelmed during “normal” times… During an epidemic, they risk having to shut down completely.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman on Tuesday approved overtime work for nurses to supplement hospital manpower in order to cope with the epidemic. The agreement was reached in coordination with the Finance Ministry and the National Association of Nurses.
Eidelman said that there has been some improvement in the past 18 months, noting that dozens of new doctors have been hired, particularly in hospitals outside the main population centers. Nevertheless, he added that the government’s plan to add 960 hospital beds over the course of six years, which was announced in February 2011, has yet to be implemented.
Professor Shuki Shemer, chairman of Tel Aviv’s Assuta Hospital, called for a national program that would increase the ability of local clinics to respond to flu cases to lessen the burden on hospitals.