Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said on Monday it wouldn’t take new patients with COVID-19 who needed extra nursing care until the Health Ministry found a way to regulate the number of patients sent to various facilities around the country.
The hospital said in a statement that the patients it was treating included 65 people in critical or serious condition.
It said it also had 25 patients who no longer required hospitalization for their virus treatment, but no other facility would take them due to the levels of nursing care they required.
“There will be no transfer of new coronavirus patients requiring nursing care to the emergency room until a solution is found to release the existing patients. This is a required step of regulation among the hospitals in the center [of the country] according to their occupancy rates,” Ichilov said in a statement.
According to Army Radio, Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, which on Sunday saw the Israel Defense Forces open up two new wards for COVID-19 patients, is currently only caring for 60 people with the virus though it has a capacity of around 120.
The Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva was said to have a low occupancy rate in its parking lot facility, and Soroka Hospital in the southern city of Beersheba was said to have an entire empty ward set aside for coronavirus patients.
Gil Fire, the deputy director of the hospital (director Ronni Gamzu is currently spearheading the country’s response to the pandemic) denied that the refusal to take new patients was a political maneuver.
“The struggle is not political — the desire is to direct patients to places that will provide them with optimal care,” he told Army Radio.
Israel has continued to see transmission rates decline amid a nationwide lockdown, but according to Health Ministry figures Monday morning there are 1,541 people hospitalized with the virus — 837 of them in serious condition and 243 on ventilators. There were 282 patients in moderate condition.
There have been 292,230 people infected in Israel since the start of the pandemic, of whom 51,855 remain active cases.
The death toll stood at 1,993, with 13 fatalities since Sunday evening.
The Health Ministry said that fewer than eight percent of coronavirus tests came back positive out of 22,777 tests administered on Sunday.
Positivity rates had hovered at around 12%-13% in recent weeks, at one point reaching a high of 15%, but dropped precipitously to 7.3% on Saturday. Both Saturday and Sunday saw dramatically lower testing rates, likely due to a regular weekend dip, but possibly also indicating the existence of fewer suspected cases.
Testing numbers have fallen sharply recently from a record high last month of 50,000-60,000 tests on some days.
Officials have noted that a reduced number of tests usually raises the positivity rate, while the figure has been steadily declining in recent days, pointing to success in efforts to bring runaway infection cases under control.
Israel has been under a national lockdown for the past three weeks to contain a raging second wave of the pandemic, which at one point reached some 9,000 daily cases.
However, recent days have seen both the number of daily cases and the percentage of positive tests go down amid sweeping restrictions on the public.