Coronavirus ward (illustrative)
Coronavirus ward (illustrative)Eitan Elhadez / TPS

With the Omicron variant of the coronavirus ripping through the country, geriatric and nursing-care hospitals are warning the government that they are on the verge of collapse.

“We are on the brink of financial crisis due to the exceptional costs associated with the fifth wave of the virus,” say hospital directors, stressing that the consequences for their patients are a reduced standard of care and a knock-on impact on all the country’s hospitals.

According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, in the last two years, private geriatric care homes and hospitals received a special grant from the government designed to address the specific needs of dealing with the coronavirus, estimated at some 200 million shekels per year. However, for the current year the Finance Ministry decided to cancel the grant.

On Wednesday, Itzik Cohen, director of the Israeli Geriatric Association which represents 54 public and private geriatric care institutions, publicly warned that, “If geriatric hospitals collapse financially, the immediate effect will be the discharge of hundreds of patients with complex needs, many of whom are intubated, into the regular hospital system, which will in turn collapse – leading to an apocalyptic scenario in which the government will be forced to decide which patient receives treatment and which is left to die.”

He explained that, “The swift spread of the Omicron variant has led to a cessation of admissions and entire wards going into quarantine, and the costs associated with these developments are immense. The system is under tremendous pressure now, as we are unable to accept new patients, especially patients who are intubated.”

Around 400 geriatric patients suffering from illness due to coronavirus infection are currently hospitalized in geriatric institutions, and due to infections among staff members, around 200 are currently unable to work as they are in quarantine.

On Tuesday, Dr. Galit Kaufman, director of Beit Halev, a network of rehabilitation centers and assisted living homes associated with the Maccabi health fund, wrote to the director-general of the Finance Ministry, Ram Blinkov, stressing among other things that:

“Prior to the coronavirus epidemic, Israel’s geriatric institutions suffered from huge budget deficits due to a disproportionately low level of funding from the government – the special budgets allocated by the government during the past years were what enabled us to continue to operate on a professional footing.”

Dr. Kobi Haviv, director of the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, noted that, “We are already facing great challenges due to the huge rate of contagion, with coronavirus wards filling up swiftly and a lack of medical personnel to staff them.”

Ido Sarir, director of the Re’ut convalescent home in Tel Aviv, added that, “It was proven over the past few years that we are on the front lines in terms of treating the most complex cases of coronavirus. We expect the government’s budgeting priorities to reflect this during the fifth wave of the virus as well.”