Number of coronavirus patients continues to rise, almost 9% screened in last day test positive

Coronavirus test site for the residents of Bnei Brak (photo credit: ROI HADI)
Coronavirus test site for the residents of Bnei Brak (photo credit: ROI HADI)


Hospitals are straining under the weight of the novel coronavirus. The latest reports show that some hospitals are at more than 100% capacity in a month when hospitalizations are normally down.

The number of coronavirus patients continues to increase, with the percentage of those testing positive out of those screened close to 9% in the last day, the Health Ministry reported.

On Monday morning, Hadassah-University Medical Center informed the public that despite a misunderstanding, “the emergency room at the hospital is accepting patients as usual.”

Earlier, due to overcrowding, Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem had asked Magen David Adom to triage relevant patients to its hospital on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.

The emergency announcement appeared just one day after newly appointed coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu appointed a team of hospital representatives to inform him and the Health Ministry if they are reaching a redline in terms of the number of hospitalizations. At that point, he said, he would consider imposing new restrictions.

Data disseminated by the Health Ministry on Monday showed that in some cases, the hospitals are already there, with a total of 310 patients in serious condition and 95 who are intubated.

The most crowded hospital is Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem. It reportedly is at 120% capacity in its general units and 152% in its coronavirus unit, which is housed in an isolated part of the older Round Building in Ein Kerem.

Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem and Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer are either overcrowded or almost overcrowded: Sourasky – 104% general, 110% coronavirus; Shaare Zedek – 104% general, 106% coronavirus; Sheba – 100% general, 90% coronavirus. Shamir Medical Center in Tzrifin was already reporting its coronavirus unit at 118%.

“What we see right now are the consequences of what happened two weeks ago, when the number of infected people was around 2,000 per day,” said Dr. Arnon Afek of Sheba. This week, the small percentage of severe patients is starting to appear in intensive-care units, he said.

This is especially acute in Jerusalem, where larger numbers of people are infected, especially among the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community. Jerusalem hospitals also support patients from red zones, such as Beitar Illit and Beit Shemesh.

The reason the country does not see such a spike in intubated patients is a result of a change of treatment protocol, Afek said.

“We are trying to avoid ventilation as much as possible and use steroids or Remdesivir [medication] as much as possible,” he said.

A second challenge is that in many cases, senior patients who do not need to be hospitalized have nowhere to go and are taking up beds that are needed for sicker patients, Afek said.

Finally, there is the challenge that the hospitals are treating patients who put off care during the first wave of the pandemic and are now sicker and in need of treatment. Hadassah-University Medical Center head Zeev Rotstein told The Jerusalem Post the hospital is treating twice as many patients now than on an average summer.

“People who have other diseases – not coronavirus, what we call ‘regular diseases’ – are coming to the hospital unlike in the first wave,” Afek said. “When they come, we need to take care of them.”

Rotstein and Afek said the hospitals lack the means to properly treat these patients – namely, enough staff – a situation that is compounded by the number of doctors and nurses regularly in isolation.

The Health Ministry reported on Monday that there were 3,002 medical personnel in isolation, including 830 nurses and 433 doctors.

Last week, the Health and Finance ministries committed to reinforcing the hospitals with some 2,000 nurses and 400 doctors. However, according to Afek and Rotstein, none of the new personnel have been recruited.

“I don’t know what the delay is,” Afek said. “I am afraid bureaucracy is holding us back.”

“Promises, promises, promises,” Rotstein said. “Promises, but no action.”

AT THE same time, the Health Ministry is not reporting numbers that reflect a changing reality. Although there were only 1,044 new diagnoses on Sunday and 1,106 on Saturday, the number of people screened for the virus dropped dramatically, and the infection rate is rising.

At press time, the ministry was reporting that on July 26, some 12,127 people were screened, making the infection rate 8.6%.
Last week, the infection rate ranged between 5% and 7%.

The reduced number of tests was a direct result of the ministry’s change of protocol, the Health Ministry told the Post. When Health Minister Yuli Edelstein first took office, he asked the public to “go out and get tested,” opening testing to all who thought they had been near a sick patient – symptoms or no symptoms.
Last week, as the labs reported they could not process tests fast enough and as staff threatened to strike over the challenging conditions, the ministry decided it would reduce those eligible for screening.

With as many as 30,000 tests a day, it was taking as long as four to five days to get results, Maccabi Healthcare Services CEO Ran Saar told the Post.
“The idea was to shorten this,” he said. “The cost is fewer tests.”

Moreover, with so many people testing positive, the small group of nurses charged with epidemiological tracing those with the virus could not manage to get to everyone.

“If we could conduct 100,000 tests a day and get results back to everyone in a short time, that would be the best,” Saar said. “But if we do more targeted checks for now, I think that’s good.”

Maccabi is conducting as many as 4,000 tests per day and should reach up to 12,000 by October or November, he said. Some 90% of Maccabi clients receive their results within 24 hours.

Following up on a KAN news report, Clalit Health Services told the Post that due to a computer malfunction in a data file, there was a disruption in the reporting of results of only 17 samples taken at the Rishon Lezion complex last Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., which led to some patients receiving false positives. As soon as the fund knew about the problem, it contacted the Health Ministry, the file was corrected, and people who were falsely put into isolation were released, a spokesperson said.

“We apologize for the mental anguish caused to some of the subjects,” Clalit said in a statement.

Finally, the Post confirmed that Prof. Ronni Gamzu has formed a “professional coronavirus cabinet” to support him in his efforts as coronavirus czar.
Rotstein and Afek are members of the committee, as are founding director of the Clalit Research Institute Ran Balicer, former Health Ministry director-general Gabriel Barbash and chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians Hagai Levine. The formation of such a committee was first shared by Channel 13.

Rotstein said he joined the committee, but does not see himself as “part of the cheerleading band.”

Afek said: “As professionals, we are outside of politics. What all of us said is that we are more than happy to assist Prof. Gamzu and the Health Ministry to reach the best solution for the people of Israel.”

At 11 p.m. on Monday, there were 36,378 active patients in Israel. Between midnight and 11 p.m. on Monday, some 1,608 people were diagnosed with the virus.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post