Analyzing data
Analyzing dataiStock

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry released updated figures showing that there are now 46 seriously ill patients in the country’s hospitals. The number of Israelis in serious condition is particularly important to monitor for a number of reasons, and fluctuations in that number form the basis for Health Ministry decisions on lockdown measures (i.e. not the number of cases in total). However, an investigation by the Yediot Aharonot newspaper cast doubt on the accuracy of the Ministry’s data. Checking the government’s figures against those provided by the hospitals themselves, Yediot Aharonot identified large discrepancies which led them to the conclusion that the total number of seriously ill patients currently stands at just 27 people.

In Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, for instance, according to government statistics there is one person in serious condition. However, an inquiry posed to hospital officials revealed that although there is one patient hospitalized with coronavirus there, he is not in serious condition. In Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, according to the government, there is one patient in serious condition; according to the hospital itself, there are none. In Sheba hospital in Tel Hashomer, the government claims there are three patients in serious condition; the hospital itself says there is just one.

Speaking to Channel 12 News on Wednesday, Prof. Nachman Ash, the government’s coronavirus project manager, confirmed that the criteria for determining the level of illness have not been altered since last year. “We make assessments based on the respiratory function of the patient, as well as his general condition,” he said. “If a patient is experiencing respiratory distress – breathing over 30 times per minute – or if the amount of oxygen in the blood drops to under 93% saturation, the patient is considered to be seriously ill. Similarly, any patient who is on assisted breathing or who experiences damage to the internal organs or a drop in blood pressure will be considered in serious condition.”

Responding to the allegations of discrepancies in the data, the Health Ministry noted that it receives data from the country’s hospitals via private companies, and that it will be investigating alleged discrepancies.