Matanyahu Engelman
Matanyahu Engelman Tadmit

The State Comptroller's report released this afternoon by Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman assesses the health care system's ability to treat eruptive and recurrent diseases.

According to the Health Ministry-anticipated scenario, when an influenza outbreak is expected, about 2,250,000 residents in Israel (about 25% of the population) are expected to be affected and that morbidity will spread over about eight weeks, with an additional 150,000 to be added to the hospital's inpatient system. About 25,000 patients will need hospitalization in intensive care units, and another 12,500 will need ventilation.

The National Preparedness Program does not address the number of isolation rooms required. The Comptroller notes that the hospital system is overloaded throughout the year, many departments in general hospitals are overcrowded, and there is a shortage of ICU beds.

The study found that the Health Ministry has no plan to "close the gaps" in inpatient beds, medical staff, and equipment during a pandemic influenza outbreak, which will allow proper care for the many patients who may need hospitalization at the time of that illness.

The readiness plan states that anti-viral drugs should be stocked to accommodate 25% of the population, while current inventory is sufficient for only 16% of the population instead of 25%.

The Prime Minister's Office responded to the State Comptroller's report: "The Israeli health system is ranked in the Bloomberg Index 2019 as one of the 10 best health systems in the world. In the past decade, the health system budget almost doubled and the health basket budget doubled. However, there is room for improvement and we will study the details of the report.

"The report is not relevant to the coronavirus, as there has been no such event in the last century and no country in the world could have predicted or prepared for the spread of the virus. Indeed, no health system in the world, even the best, was prepared to deal with the pandemic. The coronavirus epidemic is not an incident that can be tackled through the health system, but by taking determined steps to curb the spread of the pandemic," the response said.

It also states that "thanks to the Prime Minister's steps ahead of the world, Israel's situation is better than that of many developed countries. Prior to the spread of the coronavirus in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu held extensive discussions, among other things, to set up a vaccine plant to help deal with epidemics. The Prime Minister also directed to increase the array of medical staff, equip thousands of respirators, and increase hospital readiness. Alongside all the endeavors, over the next two weeks another 1,000 beds will be converted into ICUs and increased treatment facilities, placing Israel in a high position relative to the world. In addition, positions for 200 physicians, 605 nurses, approximately 300 cleaning staff, approximately 6,000 health aid students, and hundreds of medical internships will be added to the health system.

"All countries and all health systems in the world now face a tremendous challenge from coronavirus' morbidity. The only way is to stop the spread. If the spread is not stopped, no health system will withstand the surge of elderly patients. Israel is taking vigorous steps and will continue to take them. The system for responding to as many patients as possible through augmentation of manpower, equipment, and ventilators. Alongside this, we continue to prepare the system for responding to as many patients as possible through staffing, equipment, and ventilation. Prime Minister Netanyahu has bumped the Israeli health system up a level, ranking it as one of the 10 best health systems in the world. Doubling the health budget over the last decade has significantly improved the health care system in Israel," Netanyahu's Bureau said.

The Health Ministry said: "The State Comptroller's report on the health system's treatment of outbreaks is being studied by us and we are applying some of the conclusions in the current crisis. We hope that the report published while dealing with the coronavirus challenge will be used for relevant learning and criticism and not for the sake of reproach.

"The outbreak of the new coronavirus is exceptional, unique in its power, and creates a challenge for all health systems in the world. The Israeli health system was fixed on the subject from mid-January when this date began the procurement of protective equipment, respirators, and test kits for coronavirus. The hospitals were prepared for opening dedicated departments and so were the health funds.

"Israel was one of the first countries to understand the severity of the pandemic and led by the NSC and the Health Ministry, drastic measures were taken to close the borders of the country that were subsequently implemented in almost all countries of the world. The purpose of the Health Ministry's policy in dealing with the coronavirus is to try to flatten the curve of the sick so there be less morbidity and a dramatic increase in the number of the ill and hospitalized patients. The medical staff in hospitals and the community are at the forefront of coronavirus care, a front that is likely to continue for at least a few more months," the Health Ministry response said.

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