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'Save your breath, no one is coming'

Patient on floor, a body not removed for 6 hours at overwhelmed Israeli hospital

Patient documents chaos in overflowing Beersheba coronavirus ward as Israel struggles to deal with fast-rising third wave, blamed in part on British mutation

Illustrative: A Soroka Medical Center staff member works in the coronavirus ward on September 15, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Soroka Medical Center staff member works in the coronavirus ward on September 15, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Hospitalized in the coronavirus ward in Beersheba’s Soroka hospital, Shalom Piniya had a dead body in the bed next to him for six hours.

Another time, he watched helplessly as a fellow patient fell while trying to go to the bathroom, lying on the floor covered in urine for long minutes before anyone came to help.

Piniya, a 44-year-old lawyer from the southern city, documented the situation in a bid to bring attention to the plight of hospitals in Israel, which are currently being overwhelmed as the country battles its third wave of the virus.

“I am mentally broken,” Piniya told Channel 13 TV on Tuesday night in a video conversation from inside the ward. “I am a very strong person, I have never broken down like this, but this has shattered my soul to pieces,” he said in tears.

Coronavirus patient Shalom Piniya speaks to Channel 13 news from the Soroka hospital coroanvirus ward on January 5, 2020 (Screenshot)

He recounted how a patient next to him had died and the staff had not noticed, apparently reading the vital signs off the wrong monitor.

“For almost six hours I was in a room with a body next to me,” he said.

He also filmed harrowing footage of an elderly man who fell on the floor and urinated on himself, repeatedly crying out for help.

A patient lies unassisted on the floor of the Soroka hospital coronavirus ward after falling (screencapture Channel 13)

“Save your breath,” another patient can be heard saying. “No one is coming.” It took a while for the staff to respond.

In response, the hospital said that as soon as nurses identified that the patient had fallen they came to assist him, but said that it takes workers some time to don proper protective gear before they can enter the ward.

“The coronavirus ward is treating dozens of patients at the moment and medical teams monitor them 24 hours a day,” the hospital said. “Due to the harsh reality facing the teams, the process of putting on protective gear takes a few minutes.”

The hospital noted that the patient who had fallen was in good condition.

Piniya said he was sharing his story so people could see how overwhelmed the hospitals were and pleaded with people to take the virus seriously.

“Be careful, I was a lion before I came in here — now I am like a little bunny, broken by this virus,” he said. “Don’t underestimate it.”

Officials at other hospitals also warned they were close to being overwhelmed by new and more serious cases.

Illustrative: Soroka Medical Center staff work at the coronavirus ward in Be’er Sheva, on September 15, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

“I’m sorry to say this but I miss the sights of the second wave of the virus,” Prof. Masad Barhoum, head of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, told Channel 12. “Everything that I hoped would not happen has come to pass.”

Dr. Miki Halberthal, the head of Rambam hospital in Haifa, said that along with increased numbers, they were also seeing more serious cases in younger people.

“People in their 50s and 60s are the most seriously ill and we even have a 17-year-old who is on a ventilator,” he said.

The warnings came as government ministers voted Tuesday night in favor of tightening the current nationwide lockdown by shuttering schools and nonessential businesses for two full weeks, with the aim of cutting rising daily infections that have passed 8,000 a day.

People walk past a vaccination center in Jerusalem, January 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The increased measures will come into force at midnight between Thursday and Friday and last for at least 14 days, according to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the British variant of the virus for the booming surge in virus cases in Israel.

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is spreading at record speed with the British mutation. It has reached Israel and claimed many lives. We must immediately impose a full closure. I have no doubt that the government will approve it and the Knesset must pass it immediately,” he said. “Every hour that we delay, the disease spreads even quicker.”

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash reportedly said that “a rapid and unusual rate of infection has been identified in a number of localities,” raising the suspicion that the mutation is to blame.

He said that so far, 189 cases of the mutation had been identified in Israel and that health officials believed it was “spreading and expected to increase the rate of infection.” He said those 189 cases had been tracked down to 30 people, meaning an average of more than five people infected by each person.

The Health Ministry said Tuesday evening that there were 58,932 active virus cases, with 8,371 infections confirmed the previous day, the highest daily increase since over 9,000 infections were recorded on September 30, when the country was under a second national lockdown.

Along with another 6,633 cases since midnight, the number of infections since the pandemic began rose to 456,139.

The death toll stood at 3,489, with seven Israelis dying from COVID-19 on Tuesday.

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