Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Magen David Adom medical workers test residents of South Tel Aviv, June 02, 2020.

Government owned and public hospitals in Israel are on the verge of economic collapse because of debt resulting from loss of revenue of hundreds of millions of shekels during the outbreak of the coronavirus. Because of the epidemic, hospitals in Israel have not been performing surgeries, their most profitable area, while medical tourism, their richest source of income, has been suspended.

Professor Zeev Rothstein, CEO of Hadassah, told Kan 11 Monday that he may not be able to pay his hospital staff their July salaries.

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Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan has accrued NIS 200 million ($58 million) in debt as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Rambam Hospital in Haifa has accrued NIS 150 million ($44 million) in debt. Laniado Hospital in Netanya has large debts to medical equipment suppliers, and is cutting back on equipment inventory.

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Professor Itamar Grotto told the Knesset State Audit Committee that the budget supplements his ministry had received so far would help the health system cope in the short term, but not for a long time.

“I couldn’t generate enough interest in public health,” Grotto said. “Nurses, labs and more – are all behind in terms of personnel, pay and attention.”

He pointed out that all the personnel that had been added due to the crisis are temporary, and that the health ministry has not yet been approved for permanent additions.

Netanyahu’s Coronavirus Cabinet has held its second hearing since its inception on Monday, in light of the renewed spread of the virus in Israel. There are different estimates of the current rate of infection and whether Israel is at the start of a second wave of the pandemic. The decline in the number of new patients began in the last week of April and continued until May 25. Since then, their numbers have been rising, reflecting society’s return to the public spaces. As of the beginning of June, there have been a hundred new patients each day, the figure which had initially been cited as the sign the curfews had to be reinstated.

Some experts warn that infections are going to grow exponentially again. Others suggest that the main reason for the increase in the number of diagnosed patients is the significant increase in daily tests instituted by the new Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein. The latter point out that despite the much higher number of tests, the positive test rate has remained stable – about 1%.

The more the health system tests, the more new patients will be discovered, but many of them will be young people who show no symptoms of the disease at all.

At present, the increase in infections has not caused an increase in the number of seriously ill patients, patients on artificial ventilators, or even the number of hospitalized patients.

The jury is still out, however, on whether or not Israel has a quick and effective capacity to locate new patients and cut off infection chains. A case in point is the sudden rise in infections in Tel Aviv, which earlier stood out as a bastion of adherence to the guidelines and low numbers of infection. Last week, presumably following the new run on bars, restaurants and after hour clubs, 129 new coronavirus patients were diagnosed in Tel Aviv.

At least 66 of the new patients are foreign workers, some illegal, without an Israeli citizenship. Most of the new patients are ages 20-49 and live mainly in south Tel Aviv and in Jaffa – the notorious enclave of illegal migrants.

As of now, the positive test rate in Tel Aviv is more than 2% and the weekly doubling ratio is more than 2.49, higher than the national average. Some funny guy in Mea Shearim this week hung up a sign asking residents of Tel Aviv to stay out of the neighborhood so as not to infect the healthy locals. Karma rimes with rich.

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