COVID-19 in Israel: Hospitals under strain as schools remain open

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COVID-19 in Israel: Hospitals under strain as schools remain open
© (photo credit: PIXABAY) Coronavirus cells (illustrative)

The rise in Omicron cases in Israel has taken a massive toll on medical workers, Dr. Anat Engel, Director of the Wolfson Medical Center, told 103FM on Thursday: “Every day there are staff members who announce that they are sick,” making it more difficult to offer quality care to patients and straining the hospitals. 

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“The loads are heavy. It’s a combination of the morbidity that is rising because we see the amount verified in the population as well as the morbidity of staff, many of whom are in isolation,” said Engel.

Engel notes that the vaccinated staff only report mild illnesses such as runny noses and slight pains. “It’s very important that the public knows and recognizes this.”

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“You hear the talk,” Engel continued. “The talk about elective surgeries, of stopping them or not, because these things are important, but the quality of life is harmed. Even with surgeries that can be postponed, it’s not recommended. But at the peak when we have to respond to an emergency, we will act on it as best we can.”

Other hospitals besides the Wolfson Medical Center are losing medical staff, also due to an increase in morbidity, according to Israeli media. Hospitals like the Galilee Medical Center and the Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem are also reportedly understaffed.

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COVID-19 in Israel: Hospitals under strain as schools remain open
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post The Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. (credit: SACH)

Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science, who has also been advising the government, estimated that Israel is “at the peak of morbidity, and the decline has begun or will begin very soon. We’ve estimated that we will not cross the threshold of 1,200 critically ill patients, and from there it will begin to decline.”

The Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva said on Thursday that they are currently caring for 100 coronavirus patients with 54 in critical condition. Two patients are on respiratory machines. The Rabin Medical Center-Hasharon Campus in Petah Tikvah reported they 9 coronavirus patients with 5 in critical condition.

Also on Thursday, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel tested positive for COVID-19.

Hendel tweeted that he “will work from home in accordance with the Health Ministry’s guidelines,” while he, like Engel, is also encouraging Israelis who still are not vaccinated to get their vaccines, because “this is why the symptoms of most patients in Israel are mild.”

לאחר שהתגלו סימפטומים בצעתי אמש בדיקה ונמצאתי חיובי לקורונה.

אמשיך לעבוד מהבית בהתאם להנחיות משרד הבריאות.

כצפוי קפה וריצות בוקר לא מועילים נגד קורונה, אבל חיסון כן.

צאו להתחסן, זו הסיבה שהסימפטומים, של מרבית החולים בישראל, קלים.

— Yoaz Hendel יועז הנדל (@YoazHendel1) January 27, 2022

Early Thursday morning, the Israeli Labor court blocked the decision to put educational institutions on strike and cancel school on Thursday, despite previous reports saying that school would be canceled due to the Elpis snowstorm.

Under the new quarantine policy, students who come into contact with COVID will still be able to attend classes, provided that they do antigen tests at home.

According to the new policy, students from as early as nursery school up to high schoolers are required to take an antigen test every Sunday and Wednesday, and only a negative test will permit them to attend classes, even if coming into contact with the virus.

Dr. Engel noted that trying to improve mental health in children has been tossed aside for the sake of locating sick children, stating that kids who are isolated at home “is just similar to other diseases where sick children have to stay at home.

“When you balance what the risks and benefits are, I think it is right to return children to their regular routine. Should the isolation of an asymptomatic child who has been exposed be removed? Should we wait another week or not? The high amount of cases is not going to go away in another week. It might go in two to four weeks.

“A sick child, or an asymptomatic child who came out with a negative test should stay at home as with any other illness. Instability is not the correct path for children,” she concluded.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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