Israel Gearing Up for Spike in Coronavirus Patients Needing Ventilators Within Days

Amid concern over the jump in the number of coronavirus diagnoses, the Health Ministry's forecast is for up to 1,000 patients needing ventilators in two weeks, and thousands more in moderate to serious condition in four months

Outside the emergency medicine department at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.
Tomer Appelbaum תומר אפלבאום

The Health Ministry is anticipating that the number of Israeli coronavirus patients requiring ventilators will spike within two weeks from 54 to 1,000. There are currently 2,864 ventilators in Israel and 1,400 of them are available for use, the ministry has reported.

The number of patients requiring ventilators could jump to a peak of 5,000 in another three to four months, the Health Ministry predicts, while an additional 10,000 patients could be in moderate to serious condition. The projection was contained in a letter to hospital directors from Dr. Vered Ezra, who heads the ministry’s medical management division.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 66 corona patients in serious condition including 54 on ventilators.

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“Despite the difficult steps that we have pursued, the pace of infection is high and the numbers being infected have been growing at a worrying rate,” she wrote. “The characteristics of the disease and the pace of infection require continued extensive preparation.”

The ministry is also arranging to divert medical care from public to private hospitals, particularly for surgical procedures, if the need arises in the coming weeks and the number of corona patients at public hospitals exceeds 1,800. Consideration is also being given to converting a private hospital to a facility for the treatment of patients with the virus.

“We view ourselves as full partners in the effort to fight corona,” Dani Engel, the director of Herzliya Medical Center, a private hospital, told Haaretz. “Even when the treatment of corona erodes hospitals’ operations, there is still an obligation to maintain treatment to a large extent of the other patients and illnesses. The [public] hospitals may have been directed to cancel elective surgeries, but among the range of elective surgeries, there are a considerable number of procedures that cannot be put off for an extended period.”

And Engel added: “Many cases that are not deemed needing immediate emergency treatment have to be dealt with in a quick timeframe or they will end up in the hospital as emergency cases and increase the workload.”

The country’s private hospitals continue to perform elective surgery. Herzliya Medical Center, for example, performs 22,000 operations a year.