COVID testing
COVID testingYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The Health Ministry today ordered the HMOs to reduce the number of PCR tests they perform, with health funds that exceed the daily quota will be fined, Channel 12 News reported.

The ministry is interested in transferring the majority of the public who are not at-risk to institutional antigen tests, so that the PCR tests will only be used by the elderly population and other groups considered at-risk.

The HMOs were instructed to gradually reduce the number of daily PCR tests according to the following outline. By next Monday, all health funds should administer a total of 175,000 PCR tests combined.

From Tuesday, February 1 to Monday, February 7, the funds must decrease the number of PCR tests to a maximum of 150,000 tests per day. In the next three weeks, the amount of PCR tests should drop to a maximum of 120,000 tests per day and from the beginning of March to a maximum of 65,000 tests per day.

HMO executives criticized the move and wondered how such a decision could be made at the height of the Omicron wave.

The Coronavirus Information Center said that "due to the very high levels of morbidity in the Omicron wave, it has been decided to target PCR tests to the at-risk population (aged 60 and over and patients with chronic diseases), which will allow HMOs to offer these groups drug treatments as soon as possible, thus preventing their possible deterioration into a serious illness."

"To promote the outline, discussions were held with the HMOs, which sent SMS messages to all patients with chronic diseases under the age of 60 to encourage them to perform PCR tests immediately after exposure. As part of the implementation of the process, the HMOs and companies modeled in the Home Front Command's management were given time to organize, in which separate routes were required to be built for at-risk populations, and the funds must have a process of scheduling appointments for tests which gives priority to at-risk populations," the headquarters said.

They added that "the non-at-risk population can perform an institutional antigen test in many different places after the National COVID Agency in the Health Ministry expanded its nationwide deployment. We are confident that the HMOs and the testing companies will be able to find the necessary balance and the appropriate way for each body to exhaust the policy for the benefit of the at-risk patients and direct the rest of the population to the antigen test. HMOs do this as routinely when they direct the insured to perform the most relevant test. We trust the experienced and professional health funds that will continue to work for the health of patients with a broad national vision."