The directors of Israel’s seven public hospitals threatened on Sunday to stop accepting new COVID-19 patients starting Monday as they claim their resources to be stretched thin due to a lack of proper funding.
According to the director-general of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center Dr. Ofer Merin, the hospitals will also start working on a reduced footing starting Wednesday, reducing the number of staffers attending to patients.
“Here we are, several months after signing an agreement with the ministries of finance and health. An agreement which has been violated,” Merin said.
“There are seven hospital chiefs sitting here who have been through four waves of COVID-19. We work day and night, seven days a week, to save Israel and its hardest-hit cities. For a year and a half now, we have been working our staffers day and night.”
According to Merin, the country’s public hospitals suffer from a severe lack of funding despite the government approving an addition of NIS 2 billion to the country’s health system.
“Most of the budgets transferred, as you can read in the state comptroller’s report, go directly from the Health Ministry to governmental hospitals,” Merin said. “The distribution of the hospital budget is not equal.”
The director of the English Hospital in Nazareth, Dr. Fahed Hakim, said that while the Health Ministry vowed to hire 2,000 more hospital staffers — his hospital has been facing a short staff due to budget constraints.
“We’re releasing our staff, the doctors, the nurses, and all the paramedical staff at the end of the month because the money’s gone,” said Hakim.
“Our problem right now is that we’re facing a cash flow crunch. We don’t have someone closing the deficits and paying the salaries,” Hakim added. “We have been reduced to receiving handouts from good people from abroad to get through the month. This is not right.”
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash were quick to call hospital directors to discuss the issue. “We are on it, and we will meet and you will be heard,” Horowitz said.
As per the agreement signed in January, all hospitals combined were to receive NIS 105 million each month for their operation and the purchase of urgent equipment and medicines. The agreement is supposed to provide hospitals with budgetary certainty while ensuring wages to employees are paid in full and payments to suppliers for the entirety of 2021.
Meanwhile, severe coronavirus cases in Israel kept climbing to new highs, as the tally clocked at 669 Sunday evening, a record count since the onset of the fourth wave.
The Health Ministry reported that 669 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in serious condition, out of whom 107 are connected to ventilators.
Health authorities also reported that 3,745 people have tested positive for coronavirus out of some 65,000 tests carried out since midnight, putting the country’s infection rate at 5.9%.
The national coronavirus death toll has reached 6,830, of which 352 died in August alone.