After beating back 4th wave, Galilee hospital jubilantly closes last COVID ward

‘We definitely feel a sense of relief,’ says doctor who helped to care for 453 patients, reporting that many were young and unvaccinated; 64 died in hospital during recent surge

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

Staff at the Galilee Medical Center pose for a photo as they close their final COVID-19 ward (courtesy of the Galilee Medical Center)
Staff at the Galilee Medical Center pose for a photo as they close their final COVID-19 ward (courtesy of the Galilee Medical Center)

An Israeli hospital that grappled with a major influx of serious patients during the pandemic has jubilantly closed the last of its coronavirus wards.

“We definitely feel a sense of relief,” said Dr. Larissa Jacobson, head of COVID care at the Galilee Medical Center, which has seen a steady stream of patients, many of them young, in the 40-60 age bracket.

Speaking on Tuesday as the number of virus patients across Israeli hospitals fell to 223, Jacobson said: “I sincerely hope that the combination of the vaccines and the new drugs will lead to a further reduction in morbidity, and that there will be no need to reopen the department.”

The last three patients, only one of whom is still considered sick with COVID as opposed to suffering aftereffects of the virus, were transferred to other facilities. In the coming days, the last of the four coronavirus wards will undergo a thorough disinfection, after which it will once again serve as part of the hospital’s rehabilitation department.

The hospital, in Nahariya, treated some 453 coronavirus patients, around half Jewish and half Arab, in the fourth wave starting in August. It saw 64 virus deaths.

Hospital director Prof. Masad Barhoum told The Times of Israel: “The fourth wave was characterized by young people who were not vaccinated and who found themselves in serious condition,  both Jewish and Arab. Many of the people hospitalized with us were relatively young, around 40 to 60, and most of them were not vaccinated.

Staff at a COVID-19 ward at the Galilee Medical Center in fall 2020. (Shlomi Tova)

“I am happy that there has been a decrease in morbidity, which has allowed us to close three coronavirus wards recently. Winter is coming, when the internal medicine wards fill up, and it is important that they all be open instead of being needed for the coronavirus.

“Although there is cause for optimism, the coronavirus is still here so it is very important that residents in the Galilee and in the country as a whole continue to wear masks indoors and maintain distance and hygiene, both of which give protection.”

Israel’s daily coronavirus caseload has fallen considerably in recent weeks, with 564 new infections recorded Monday, and 161 people in serious condition with the virus around the country.

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