Food poisoning suspected as three die at Holon shelter for people with disabilities

A team sent by the Health Ministry to the Beit Dafna shelter finds severe deficiencies in the facility’s kitchen

Illustrative: View of a hospital patient food tray. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative: View of a hospital patient food tray. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

A shelter for people with disabilities in Holon has come under scrutiny after three of its residents died one after the other within the last couple of days, apparently as a result of food poisoning.

A special team sent to the Beit Dafna shelter by the Health Ministry found severe deficiencies in its kitchen, according to reports Monday, and has instructed the staff to shut down the kitchen completely until the investigation is completed.

A few residents began feeling ill during the night between Saturday and Sunday, with some suffering from diarrhea.

One of them, who had suffered from an underlying medical condition, lost consciousness while being examined by the facility’s medical staff. Paramedics who were rushed to the scene attempted to resuscitate her, but efforts failed and she was pronounced dead on Sunday.

Three other residents were rushed to the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, two of whom, who had also suffered from underlying medical conditions, died Monday morning. The third resident is currently hospitalized in critical condition.

Later on Monday, reports indicated that two other residents of the shelter were admitted to the hospital and were presenting similar symptoms.

Police officers were seen arriving at the shelter on Monday evening, though it was not clear if an official investigation was launched at that point.

“We’re here to listen,” an officer on the scene was quoted by Channel 12 as saying.

According to Ynet, some 30 residents were affected by the incident and suffered from diarrhea and vomiting. However, most of them presented mild symptoms.

Initial findings pointed to possible food poisoning, the Health Ministry stated, without providing further details.

According to a report by the Walla news site, a professional team from the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry was also sent to the shelter in order to provide the staff with further assistance.

The team will remain at the facility until the Health Ministry completes its investigation, the report said.

The director-general of the ministry, Sigal Moran, has reportedly instructed its staff to establish a review board to look into the facility’s conduct.

A statement issued by the Beit Dafna shelter read: “Immediately after being notified of the first incident, the shelter began working together with the certified professionals from the health and welfare ministries to identify the cause of this unfortunate event.”

“As a first step, the facility’s kitchen was shut down and food is being provided to the residents by an external provider. The shelter has taken steps to be as transparent as possible while fully cooperating with the relevant entities,” the statement added.

According to the Beit Dafna website, there are currently 138 residents above the age of 9 with some form of intellectual disability at the facility.

Israelis with family members at the shelter who learned about the unusual incident from the media made their way to the Holon facility Monday evening, looking for answers and lighting candles in memory of the deceased, according to Ynet.

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