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Health minister blames COVID unvaccinated for strain on hospitals

Despite waning of coronavirus wave, Nitzan Horowitz says there’s no cause to rejoice; hospitals report blood shortages

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz gives a press conference at Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba, on November 30, 2021. (Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz gives a press conference at Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba, on November 30, 2021. (Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Tuesday said people who have refused COVID vaccines were responsible for the heavy strain on hospitals across the country, two days after Israel recorded its highest number of seriously ill COVID patients since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Horowitz told the Kan public broadcaster that the load was due to people who have not been vaccinated and “have singlehandedly brought serious illness upon themselves.”

The minister said that while the peak of the current wave appears to have passed, many challenges still remain.

“We see a daily decrease in the number of new infections,” he said. “The pandemic is waning, and still, it’s no cause for celebration.”

Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash said Tuesday in an interview to 103FM Radio that the pressure on the hospitals comes with a high price.

“It costs us in human life and in the burden put on medical personnel,” he said, noting, however, that while “every death is painful, we need to remember the other side of the equation — shutting down the economy and imposing restrictions hurts a lot of people.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (R) speaks with Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash during a press conference in Jerusalem on December 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Referring to the Omicron subvariant BA.2, Ash said, “Currently, there are no signs that indicate that it is spreading. New variants will continue to pop up. One of the most important things we must do is prepare — follow their development and assess the danger they pose.”

As of Tuesday morning, there were 1,161 hospitalized patients with COVID in serious condition, including 288 patients on ventilators, according to the Health Ministry. The death toll since the start of the pandemic stands at 9,226, with 282 dead in the past week.

Close to 44,000 Israelis tested positive for COVID on Monday, out of 181,947 tests, with a positivity rate of 24%. The number of active cases continued to decline on Tuesday, and currently stands at 318,29.

According to Health Ministry statistics, seriously ill COVID patients over age 60 were 12 times more likely to be unvaccinated than vaccinated. As of Tuesday, 54% of all patients with COVID in serious condition were not vaccinated with a booster.

Several big hospitals have reported severe shortages of blood, Kan reported, warning that the continued lack may lead to patients not getting the treatment they require.

According to the report, the hospitals most affected by the shortage are Soroka Medical Center, Assuta Ashdod Medical Center, Shamir Medical Center, Rambam Health Care Campus, Galilee Medical Center and Emek Medical Center.

Illustrative: View of the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, December 23, 2013. (Flash90)

Some hospitals have found unorthodox ways of dealing with the situation.

Sheba Medical Center has started asking for blood donations from medical staff and their families. Other hospitals said they had launched similar efforts.

The Health Ministry has responded by saying that the shortage is caused by the large number of confirmed cases and quarantined people, which has led to fewer donations nationwide. The ministry said that it has instructed hospital managers and blood banks to shorten the waiting period required before COVID patients who have recovered are allowed to donate blood.

Israel’s national emergency organization Magen David Adom (MDA) noted that the shortage is mainly in type O blood units, and urged the public “to donate blood and help save lives.”

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