A 53-year-old man died earlier this week after suffering a heart attack, because there were no available ECMO machines in the country to treat him, with most of them being used by unvaccinated COVID-19 patients experiencing serious illness, according to a Wednesday television report.
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines do the work of a person’s heart and lungs in order to allow them to recover from serious respiratory illness. Unlike ventilators that just assist breathing, ECMOs provide cardiac and respiratory assistance by oxygenating a patient’s blood outside of the body and are used only for the most critically ill.
On Wednesday, there were 49 COVID patients being treated with ECMO machines in Israel, 30 of whom were unvaccinated, Channel 12 news reported.
The man, who was not infected with COVID-19, was hospitalized in a relatively small hospital in northern Israel after suffering cardiac arrest, according to the network. For hours, the hospital staff attempted to find another medical center that had an available ECMO machine for him, to no avail.
Hospital chiefs had warned on Sunday that they were facing a shortage of ECMO machines, and that the healthcare system could be “on the way to total failure” if more funds were not allocated immediately.
Dr. Mickey Dudkiewicz, the director of Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, told Channel 12 that his hospital often needs to send seriously ill patients to hospitals in central Israel in order for them to be treated with ECMO machines.
“Basically, between Tel Aviv and Haifa, there are no ECMO machines. This significantly impairs the quality of treatment,” he said.
“The current situation is that being able to treat all the COVID patients who arrive, most of whom require respiratory assistance or ECMO, comes at the expense of other patients in the emergency room,” Dr. Yaron Bar-Lavie, head of Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus’s general ER, told Channel 13 news.
“We need to decide who will receive ECMO, who will be accepted into the ER, and who won’t, based on their chances of survival,” Bar-Lavie added.
According to Health Ministry figures, there are 68,868 active cases, including 191 people hooked up to ventilators, as of Wednesday night. The death toll stood at 7,592.
The ministry also reported that 6,076,613 Israelis had received at least a single vaccine shot and 5,599,422 had gotten two doses. Another 3,125,507 had received a third booster shot.