The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation said Thursday it was donating NIS 50 million ($13.4 million) to help Israeli hospitals combat the spread of the deadly new coronavirus which has so far infected hundreds in the country.
The funding will be used to purchase respirators, protective equipment for medical teams “as well as to address other critical needs of the hospitals in Israel,” the foundation said in a statement.
Medical workers have criticized the government and the Health Ministry for not providing them with adequate equipment to protect against catching the virus from the patients they are treating.
Of the over 520 confirmed cases of the virus so far, at least 21 are medical staff. Over 2,600 medical workers are said to be in self-quarantine due to fears that they had been exposed to the virus which causes the COVID-19 disease.
Health officials are also concerned that as the number of disease cases increases hospitals could become overwhelmed and not have adequate equipment to treat all the patients.
“We are totally committed to the massive challenge now being faced by all humanity,” said Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, who heads the charity foundation.
“We are also committed to providing whatever is lacking, so that they can continue saving lives with all the essential equipment they need,” Rothschild said.
The help for Israeli hospitals is a departure from the foundation’s primary efforts, which are normally aimed at reducing social inequalities by providing higher education for as many people as possible.
Israeli Medical Association chairman Zion Hagay reported this week that emergency room doctors were low on masks, which need to be replaced after two hours of use. In a statement he also said that a large number of masks and protective suits had been stolen from hospitals across the country.
The head of the Mirsham association for medical interns, Rey Biton, wrote in a statement Monday that due to the “failures” that have taken place, “entire wards have been closed, vital medical teams have gone into quarantine, and our most valuable resources, doctors, are going to waste.”
The Health Ministry in response to the criticism said in a statement: “We are in constant contact with [the country’s] medical staff and are equipping them with additional protective gear.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.