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Flooded by cases, hospitals in Jerusalem and Ashdod stop taking virus patients

Health Ministry director orders hospitals to stop elective surgery, warns of ’emergency situation’ and foresees another 200-300 seriously ill COVID-19 patients by end of week

Magen David Adom medical workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 14, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Magen David Adom medical workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 14, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Hospitals in Jerusalem and Ashdod on Monday announced they could no longer take in additional coronavirus patients due to overload, as medical centers across the country were ordered to gird for several hundred additional serious COVID-19 cases by the end of the month.

The announcements by Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Ashdod’s Assuta Medical Center came as 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.”

Patients who arrive at Shaare Zedek or Assuta will be directed elsewhere.

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 10, 2020. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the Health Ministry, in addition to Shaare Zedek and Assuta, the coronavirus wards at a number of major hospitals around the country have topped 100 percent capacity — Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem (129%) and Hadassah Mount Scopus (100%), Netanya’s Laniado hospital (120%), and Ramat Gan’s Sheba Medical Center (109%).

Jerusalem, Israel’s largest city, has the most active coronavirus cases — 5,637 — with over 3,000 diagnosed in the past week, while Ashdod places third nationwide, with 1,878. The ministry also said Monday that 3,157 medical staff are currently in quarantine nationwide, including 430 doctors and 889 nurses.

Israel’s coronavirus czar warned Sunday that virus numbers were reaching “emergency” levels that could see the country face 600 deaths a month, and ordered hospitals to add new virus wards.

Ronni Gamzu said in an interview with 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.

Virus czar, Prof. Roni Gamzu, seen during a meeting at the Jerusalem city hall on August 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gamzu said he feared that at current rates, Israel will see some 20 deaths a day, or 600 per month, nearly half of the national toll since the start of the pandemic.

The strain on the healthcare system came as the country was under a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to bring down the infection rates.

The new lockdown is simultaneously more permissive and more complex than the weeks-long closure imposed earlier this year, with numerous directives and exceptions to those directives seeming to cause public confusion as to what is and isn’t in fact allowed.

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

Health Ministry figures on Monday showed that there were 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 the holiday weekend. Figures showed 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, well below the 24 deaths the day before.

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