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Hospitals remove beds from corridors after nurses protest

Jerusalem Post, 2/16/11

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
February 16, 2011
Jerusalem Post

Excess patients to be shifted to geriatric departments while Health Ministry plans expansion.
 
Hospitals reduced the number of beds in their internal medicine departments on Tuesday, so none of them would have more than 120-percent occupancy.

The Health Ministry’s policy change resulted from protests last month by the Nurses Union, which threatened not to admit any patients to the departments if they had to lie on beds in corridors, and that they would walk out of their jobs if this occurred.

The ministry commented that “hospitalization conditions are terrible” and said it was dealing with this in three ways: increasing beds with funding and manpower; transferring suitable patients to geriatric departments for acute care; and making changes in financial agreements between the hospitals and the health funds.

Occupancy over 120%, it continued, is liable to harm the necessary quality of care. Hospital directors were told to “take action within their abilities to ensure quality of care while reducing the pressure on hospitalization.”

The Nurses Union said that shifting internal medicine patients to other departments with space – such as ophthalmology, dermatology and otolaryngology – was undesirable, as medical staffers there lacked the special training to treat them. It added that overburdened internists were exhausted and short on manpower. It called on the ministry to issue a clear order prohibiting hospitalization of internal medicine cases in other types of departments.

Union head Ilana Cohen criticized the ministry for only now setting a limit on department capacity, as it “knew about the problem for a decade but did nothing before we threatened to walk out of our jobs.”

A month ago, the occupancy rate in internal medicine departments, which take care of the elderly and others with multiple chronic diseases, was sky-high due to large numbers of patients with flu complications. Since then, these complications have declined, easing pressure on the departments.

Ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu visited Wolfson Medical Center in Holon on Monday and found that occupancy rates in internal medicine departments had reached 140%.

He said he could not justify nurses’ abandonment of their departments, but agreed that the situation was unfair to patients and staffers alike.

Meanwhile, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, announced that it was donating NIS 6 million to hospitals in Israel’s periphery as part of the effort to prepare them for emergencies and routine needs. The funds will go toward purchasing vital medical equipment and strengthening hospital infrastructures.

The donation will be used to provide Ziv Hospital in Safed and Poriya Hospital in Tiberias with MRI scanners, and add to the infrastructure of Emek Medical Center in Afula. Last year, the ministry gave approval for hospitals in the periphery to purchase MRIs, but did not give them the money to do so.

Well-known medical centers in the Center of the country have the prestige and donors (mostly foreign) to purchase the best equipment for themselves, while those in the outlying parts of the country do not.

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