Soroka Medical Center medical staff member works at the Coronavirus ward of Soroka Medical Center, in Be'er Sheva, on September 15, 2020. 

The Israeli health care system is on the brink of collapse and will soon no longer be able to ensure coronavirus patients receive adequate care, health officials warned Monday amid new data indicating that the country’s second outbreak is showing no signs of slowing down.

As of Monday evening, several major hospitals announced that their COVID-19 units had either exceeded capacity or were nearing full capacity, raising concerns patient care would be compromised.

While the Health Ministry had committed to integrating as many as 700 new doctors into the health care system, the Knesset Information Center revealed that so far, only 156 such positions have been filled.

The team advising the country’s Coronavirus Project Coordinator Ronni Gamzu has warned that healthcare providers “are experiencing growing fatigue. In some hospitals, the teams have not been relieved for a prolonged period.” The growing number of doctors and nurses who must be quarantined due to potential exposure to the virus is also playing a major role in increasing the burden on medical teams, they said.

So far, 772 doctors and nurses have contracted COVID-19, and some 3,157 medical personnel have been ordered into isolation.

“This is a fiasco in the making,” warned Dr. Ze’ev Feldman, chairman of the Israel Physicians Association. He accused the Finance Ministry of imposing bureaucratic difficulties on the hiring process over “its desire to control everything. It undermines the system.”

“The problem the Health Ministry is facing has nothing to do with ventilators and other equipment — it has to do with the fact that caregivers are collapsing with exhaustion,” he said.

A Health Ministry statement said that “a total of 251 physician positions and 1,275 nursing positions have been staffed since early March. Recruitment processes will continue for at least another two months, as they depend, among other things, on the dates of the [doctors and nurses’] licensing exams.”

Health Ministry Director Hezi Levi warned on Monday that Israel was looking at an additional 300 COVID-19 patients in serious condition within the next 10 days — a dire prediction that would bring hospitals nationwide to the verge of collapse.

Israel’s healthcare system is facing a state of emergency, he said.

The ministry has ordered all hospitals to suspend elective procedures and convert wards into additional COVID-19 units once the existing ones reach 80 percent capacity.

As of Tuesday morning, Israel’s Health Ministry reported a total of 193,374 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the onset of the pandemic, 51,338 of which are still considered “active.” There were 668 patients listed as being in serious condition, 159 of whom were on ventilators. To date, 1,285 people in the country have died of the disease.

Of the 33,235 COVID-19 tests administered on Monday, 11.6% were positive, according to ministry data.

Also on Tuesday, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) reported that some 1,166,255 million Israelis had been ordered into quarantine on the basis of contact tracing of known carriers. The agency alerted the Health Ministry to 572,443 people who had been close proximity to verified carriers of the virus, 29,121 of them over the past week alone. JN

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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