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‘Bacteria growth isn’t put on hold when there are rockets’

As ER arrivals fall, MDs say it shows rocket-battered Israelis neglecting health

Tel Aviv hospital reports 25% drop in emergency cases, amid national concerns that people are putting off urgent care, potentially putting their lives in danger

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

Illustrative image: An ambulance arrives at the emergency room of Shaare Zedek Medical Center (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative image: An ambulance arrives at the emergency room of Shaare Zedek Medical Center (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There has been a marked drop in visits to Israel’s hospital emergency rooms since the start of the current violence — and doctors are worried it indicates people are neglecting their health out of security fears.

“There is a serious decline in visits to our emergency department,” Dr Sharon Greenberg, a senior physician at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, told The Times of Israel on Sunday, stating that there has been a 25 percent fall.

Part of this is due to a welcome decline in car and scooter accidents, as people stay home, but it’s partly a result of people avoiding necessary visits because they fear rocket fire and street violence, he said.

Other hospitals are also reporting quieter emergency rooms — despite receiving people injured in violence — and voicing similar concerns. At Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, Dr. Kobi Asaf, head of emergency medicine, said: “People need to think carefully, and not avoid hospital visits.

A long exposure picture shows Iron Dome anti-missile system firing interception missile at rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, as seen from Ashdod, May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)

“They need to reflect on the fact that bacteria growth isn’t put on hold because rockets are being shot, and neither are heart problems and other health issues. They need the same attention as always.”

Greenberg and Asaf both voiced fears that many Israelis have entered the same mindset as early in the coronavirus crisis. Greenberg said: “It’s reminiscent of that time, when people stayed away from hospitals because of fears, and that mustn’t happen again.”

A woman helps a man after a heart attack (iStock)

Research showed that in Israel early in the pandemic, even heart attack patients tarried, and arrived an average of an hour later than normal.

Asaf said: “We call the 90 minutes after a heart attack the ‘golden hour’ when the chance of a good outcome is much better. So for this and other medical issues, people must head to the hospital.”

He said that even if people believe their condition is minor, they shouldn’t take any risks. “We’re not telling people to come if it’s a major problem but to stay away if it’s a minor one, because in reality the general public doesn’t actually know what is serious and what’s not. So people should just come.”

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